According to a letter from federal authorities sent Monday, June, 7—the Biden administration threatens to sue Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott if the state follows through on plans to stop working with the federal government to keep illegal migrant children.
Even though Texas gives permits for the shelters to operate, Paul Rodriguez, the deputy general counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services, claimed in a letter released to The Associated Press on Monday that he is allowed by Congress to care for unaccompanied migrant children.
Rodriguez threatened the Republican governor with legal action if he did not reverse his order and continued to interfere with the centers’ functioning.
Rodriguez wrote to Abbott and two other officials, saying, “[The Office of Refugee Resettlement] operates 52 state-licensed facilities in Texas, which comprise a significant portion of ORR’s total operational footprint, and represent an indispensable component of the federal immigration system.” According to Rodriguez, such a “proclamation would be a direct attack on this system.”
Abbott must tell the deputy counsel by June 11 if the governor’s proclamation last week applies to the 52 shelters that are currently licensed across Texas but are supported with federal funds. In response to Abbott’s argument that migrant children are “illegal immigrants,” Rodriguez noted that under existing federal law, kids “do not accrue unlawful presence” while remaining in the country.
According to the Associated Press, Texas is home to more than half of the migrant children now imprisoned by the federal government. Last month, federal agencies reported that Texas shelters housed 4,223 migrant children out of a total of 7,000 in federal custody, saying: “Experts and advocates say shutting down these shelters could seriously disrupt the program for unaccompanied children, which already faces capacity problems forcing the government to open up a dozen emergency sites to process thousands of children.”
Abbott’s May 31 decision to shutter the facilities is tied to a disaster declaration he made, according to Axios.
“The Biden administration’s immigration policies are failing Texans, causing a humanitarian crisis in many Texas communities along the border,” Abbott said of the order, adding that the “surge of individuals” crossing the border “poses an ongoing and imminent threat” to state citizens.
He also stated that the migrant child problem is depleting the state’s foster care system.
“The unabated influx of individuals resulting from federal government policies threatens to negatively impact state-licensed residential facilities, including those that serve Texas children in foster care,” according to Abbott.
“By August 30, 2021, you must wind down any operations at your child-care facility that provide care under a federal contract to individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States,” the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has already warned the 52 facilities.
HHS officials stated at the time that the government had no intentions to shutter any of the clinics, potentially setting up a legal battle with Abbott if he does so after 90 days.
“HHS’s top priority is the health and safety of the children in our care. We are assessing the Texas directive concerning licensed facilities providing care to unaccompanied children and do not intend to close any facilities as a result of the order, ” said Sarah Lovenheim, a department spokesperson.