Texas Sues Feds Over Virus Risk at Strained Border Facilities

The Lone Star State seeks to reimpose the immediate expulsion of most undocumented migrants at the border, claiming the Biden administration is ignoring the risk of Covid-19 spread at overcrowded facilities.

Migrants are seen in custody at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing area under the Anzalduas International Bridge in Mission, Texas, last month. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) – Backed by a group headed by former White House adviser Stephen Miller, Texas sued the Biden administration Thursday over the overcrowding of migrants at border facilities and the refusal to detain them in spite of public health concerns during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the Washington-based America First Legal Foundation sued in Fort Worth federal court, opposing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s refusal to apply Title 42 to unaccompanied children. The measure was enacted last year under the Trump administration and immediately expelled most immigrants, including asylum-seekers, at the southern border.

The 34-page complaint states the CDC failed to give an explanation why the Biden administration no longer applies Title 42 towards unaccompanied minors.

“Unsurprisingly, the number of UAC [unaccompanied alien children] encountered at the southwest border increased to 9,431 in February (roughly a 105% increase over the number encountered in November),” the lawsuit states. “And the number of UAC encountered in March increased to 18,890 (roughly a 310% increase over the number encountered in November).” (Parentheses in original.)

The overwhelming number of undocumented immigrants has resulted in Border Patrol at the overcrowded holding facilities resorting to releasing some families with no notices to appear in immigration court. Families are often released with only booking records and with only the parents being photographed and fingerprinted.

Paxton claims President Joe Biden is allowing the possibly infected migrants to congregate in the holding facilities, a violation of the CDC’s own guidelines creating “an undeniable crisis” at the border. He wants the administration to resume enforcing a backstop in the Immigration & Nationality Act that allows the detention of aliens who might transmit disease of public health significance.

“President Biden’s outright disregard of the public health crisis in Texas by welcoming and encouraging mass gatherings of illegal aliens is hypocritical and dangerous,” Paxton said in a written statement. “This reckless policy change stifles the reopening of the Texas economy at a time when businesses need it the most and when our children need to get back to in-person learning as soon as possible.”

Miller said his group is “deeply honored to work alongside the state of Texas” to protect Americans’ health and safety.

“By releasing unvaccinated and potentially coronavirus-infected aliens en masse into the country – aliens who have been smuggled and housed in extremely unsanitary conditions – the Biden administration is sabotaging the public health of Texans and all Americans,” Miller said in a written statement.

The Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday evening, citing ongoing litigation. The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thursday’s lawsuit comes two weeks after Paxton filed a similar lawsuit in Amarillo federal court opposing Biden’s suspension of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program. The Migrant Protection Protocols forced migrants to wait in Mexico – not the United States – for adjudication of their asylum cases. Republicans blamed Biden’s suspension of MPP – in addition to the suspension of Title 42 – for contributing to the surge in migrants since January.

Lawmakers from both parties have descended on Texas’ border with Mexico since March, with Republicans blaming Biden for the surge in migrants while Democrats have offered suggestions to speed up the asylum process to clear the logjam.

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