U.S. attorney general tells Texas to rescind immigrant COVID-19 order

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U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland attends a meeting with various law enforcement leadership and Illinois-area Strike Force Teams at the U.S. Attorney's Office as an initiative was announced today to reduce gun violence with five cross-jurisdictional strike forces by disrupting illegal firearms trafficking in key U.S. regions, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., July 23, 2021. Samuel Corum/Pool via REUTERS

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WASHINGTON, July 29 (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday warned Texas Governor Greg Abbott to "immediately rescind" a new executive order aimed at curbing the travel into the state of undocumented immigrants who may pose a risk of transmitting COVID-19.

"The 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," Garland told Abbott in a letter.

He added that if Texas continues to implement the ground restrictions on migrants, then the Justice Department will "pursue all appropriate legal remedies."

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Garland's letter comes just a day after Abbott signed the order, which states that "no person, other than a federal, state, or local law-enforcement official, shall provide ground transportation to a group of migrants" who have been detained by federal immigration officials for crossing the border.

It also directs the state's Department of Public Safety to "stop any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion of a violation" and gives the department authority to "reroute such a vehicle back to its point of origin or a port of entry."

The executive order states that the new policy is warranted because of President Joe Biden's "refusal to enforce laws passed by the United States Congress" and the measure is aimed at protecting Texans from exposure to COVID-19.

Garland said the order "would jeopardize the health and safety of noncitizens in federal government custody" and it will also interfere with the implementation of federal immigration law.

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Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch Editing by Chris Reese and Alistair Bell

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