The White House and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott are locked in a standoff after the Lone Star State moved to block federal housing for unaccompanied illegal immigrant children, according to a report.
Abbott, who will accompany former President Donald Trump on a visit to the border on Wednesday, has ordered state child care regulators to pull the licenses for shelters that serve illegal immigrant children beginning Aug. 31.
About 4,500 children would be affected.
Abbott’s move would further complicate the Biden administration’s response to the growing crisis at the border of record-smashing numbers of illegal crossers month after month.
Letters between Abbott and the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees those facilities, show the Texas governor striking a defiant tone, Politico reported, citing copies of the missives.
“The federal government must solve the federal problem caused by the Biden administration’s disastrous open-border policies,” Abbott wrote to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Texas will not be commandeered into federal government service.”
Abbott, who announced earlier this month that Texas would build a wall along the border, pointed to the Biden administration’s use of emergency shelters like military bases to house the children as his reason to pull support at the state level.
“The federal government cannot force a state to do the federal government’s job,” he wrote.
Texas is among a handful of Republican-led states that have refused to help HHS arrange housing for the tens of thousands of minor migrants in the government’s care, noting the huge financial cost they would have to shoulder, as well as the possibility of overrunning state resources.
HHS has accused the governor of launching a “direct attack” on the Biden administration’s immigration response and said it’s working with the Justice Department on suing.
HHS deputy general counsel Paul Rodriguez sent Abbott and other state officials a letter asking for specifics on how they would carry out the order and are awaiting a response.
“We are exploring our options, for the sake of protecting the safety and well-being of unaccompanied children at licensed facilities in Texas,” a spokesperson told Politico.
If Texas follows through with Abbott’s plan, thousands of migrant children would have to be sent to shelters around the country, creating another headache for the Biden administration, which is already struggling to respond to the waves of children arriving in the US.
Texas officials announced in April that they are investigating allegations of child sex abuse and neglect at San Antonio’s Freeman Expo Center, where thousands of migrant children who crossed the border illegally are being held.
Abbott said there are four complaints being investigated: child sex abuse, understaffing, unfed children and a failure to separate kids with COVID-19 from healthy children, the report said.
“Earlier today the Texas Health and Human Services commission and Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, separately received tips that alleged child abuse and neglect at the San Antonio migrant facility,” Abbott said. “These products are a biproduct of President Biden’s policies.
“In short, this facility is a health and safety nightmare,” Abbott said.
Abbott at the time called on the president to shut down the facility, and move children to safer ones.