September 23, 2021

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Justice Dept. moves to block Abbott order on immigrant transportation – POLITICO

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Along with the suit, the Justice Department filed a request that a judge issue a temporary restraining order lifting Abbott’s order pending further court action.

The case was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone, an appointee of President George W. Bush.

Abbott’s order, issued Wednesday, says immigrants can only be transported by ground by law enforcement officials, but Garland has said the federal government relies extensively on contractors, grantees and non-governmental organizations to move immigrants, including children in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“The executive order thus can be expected to cause confrontations between [Texas Department of Public Safety officers] and federal personnel, contractors, and partners moving noncitizens, an important immigration function. Accordingly, this Court should promptly issue a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction to prevent irreparable harm to the United States,” a Justice Department lawyer wrote in the court filing.

Abbott, a Republican, issued a statement Friday evening blaming the Biden administration for the dispute and accusing federal officials of ignoring their responsibilities to make sure immigrants don’t spread communicable diseases like the coronavirus.

“The Biden Administration has created a constitutional crisis between the federal government and the State of Texas. This stems from the Biden Administration’s refusal to enforce immigration laws and allow illegal immigrants with COVID-19 to enter our country,” Abbott said. “Until President Biden and his Administration do their jobs to enforce the laws of our nation and protect Americans, the State of Texas will continue to step up to protect our communities and uphold the rule of law.”

The legal fight revolves around a set of federal laws known as Title 42, which gives federal authorities broad powers to suspend the entry of immigrants for public health reasons.

The Trump administration seized on the legislation to shut down nearly all efforts by asylum seekers to apply for protection at the U.S. border with Mexico. While President Joe Biden won office after promising more liberal immigration policies, he has largely kept the Title 42 restrictions in place, although his aides have stressed they have authorized limited humanitarian exceptions.

In February, Biden officials issued a policy exempting unaccompanied minors from the Title 42 limits. That prompted a lawsuit from Texas in June seeking to block the exemption for children.

Fort Worth-based U.S. District Court Judge Mark Pittman ruled Thursday that Texas’ request was moot because of a revised policy the Biden administration issued earlier this month. However, Pittman — an appointee of President Donald Trump — said lawyers for the state can revise their lawsuit to address the new order and make another request to block the exemption.

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