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Biden Admin Threatens Lawsuit Against Texas Over Unaccompanied Children Shelters

The Biden administration on Monday said it may file a lawsuit against Texas after Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed an order to pull state licenses for shelters that house unaccompanied children who recently crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.

Late last month, Abbott signed an order mandating that officials need to end state licenses for the shelters being used by the federal government within 90 days.  The federal government—and typically the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—is responsible for caring for and housing unaccompanied children, according to immigration law.

HHS Deputy General Counsel Paul Rodriguez sent a letter (pdf) to Abbott, a Republican, and other Texas officials and warned them that Abbott’s recent move to rescind state licenses from federal immigration facilities would lead to a lawsuit, arguing that it would violate immigration law.

“Although we prefer to resolve this matter amicably, in light of the legal issues outlined above, HHS is consulting the U.S. Department of Justice and intends to pursue whatever appropriate legal action is necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of the vulnerable youth that Congress entrusted to [HHS],” Rodriguez wrote.

The HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement operates more than 50 state-licensed facilities in Texas, Rodriguez added in his letter. As those facilities “comprise a significant portion of [the agency’s] total operational footprint, and represent an indispensable component of the federal immigration system,” Abbott’s recent order is a “direct attack” on that system, he said.