EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday responded to a letter from the U.S. Attorney General urging him to rescind his executive order restricting the transportation migrants into Texas communities.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Marrick Garland, Abbott said the State of Texas and the federal government face a constitutional crisis.

Abbott has said the executive order limits the spread of coronavirus by restricting anyone other than a certified peace officer from moving migrants.

But Garland threatened legal action and called the executive order “dangerous and unlawful,” adding that it will “jeopardize the health and safety of noncitizens in federal government custody, federal law enforcement personnel and their families, and our communities.”

Replied Abbott: “The authority that you assert to protect noncitizens directly conflicts with my authority, and duty, to protect citizens of Texas and the United States. The constitutions and laws of the United States
and of Texas empower me, as Governor, to protect the health and safety of Texans.”

The Biden administration on Friday sued Texas to prevent state troopers from stopping vehicles carrying migrants on grounds that they may spread COVID-19, warning that the practice would exacerbate problems amid high levels of crossings on the state’s border with Mexico.

The Justice Department wants a judge to block Gov. Greg Abbott’s order allowing troopers to “stop any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion” that it provides transportation to migrants. 

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in El Paso.

Abbott accused the Biden administration of knowingly admitting hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants infected with COVID-19.

“To be clear, the Biden Administration is knowingly importing COVID-19 into Texas from across the border and knowingly exposing Texans and Americans to that disease,” Abbott wrote. “While the Biden Administration is openly pondering looming shutdowns and mandates on U.S. citizens to control the spread of COVID-19, at the same time the Administration is knowingly worsening the problem by importing COVID-19 at extreme rates.”

Abbott cites in his executive order a situation in which migrants, under the care of a non-governmental organization, had been ordered to isolate at a hotel after testing positive for COVID-19. They were spotted visibly sick and without masks at a restaurant. The incident prompted police in the Town of La Joya to issue a public health warning.

In his letter to Abbott, Garland said federal law requires individuals processed for release to appear before immigration courts or report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices throughout the country. He said Abbot’s order violates federal law in numerous respects, and Texas cannot lawfully enforce the Executive Order against any federal official or private parties working with the United States.

Abbott, however, said the Biden administration refuses to enforce immigration laws and allows undocumented immigrants in the country, thus, creating a constitutional crisis between the federal government and the State of Texas.

“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,” Abbot said.

Still, Abbott said his office remains committed to working with Garland and the Department of Justice.

“To ensure,” he said, “that we achieve the twin goals of applying the laws of the United States and of this state, while also preventing the knowing importation of COVID-19 into our communities.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.