Biden administration threatens Texas with legal action over migrant detention facility closures

Gov. Greg Abbott told to rescind his order shutting down federally funded shelters that house migrant children. The Biden administration threatened Monday to pursue legal action if Texas Gov. Greg Abbott doesn’t rescind his order shutting down federally funded shelters that house migrant children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border without their parents.

In a letter obtained by the Associated Press, the deputy general counsel for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told the Republican governor that even though the state issues the licenses for the shelter, Congress has tasked his agency with caring for unaccompanied children.

He warned Abbott not to interfere with those operations and said HHS intends to pursue legal action if the state proceeds to close the shelters down.

“(The Office of Refugee Resettlement) operates 52 state-licensed facilities in Texas, which comprise a significant portion of ORR’s total operational footprint, and represent an indispensable component of the federal immigration system,” Paul Rodriguez, HHS deputy general counsel, wrote in the letter to Abbott and two other Texas officials. The “proclamation would be a direct attack on this system.”

The letter urges Abbott to clarify by June 11 whether his proclamation last week applies to 52 shelters that are licensed by the state but funded with federal grants. It argues that federal law states these migrant children “do not accrue unlawful presence” while they are in the United States, challenging Abbott’s labeling of these children as “unlawful immigrants.”

More than half of migrant children sheltered by the U.S. government in licensed facilities are in Texas. The last census taken on May 19 showed 4,223 children in the facilities of about 7,000 in the entire network of licensed shelters.

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Editorial credit: Mike Hardiman /

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