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Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a Kingwood Tea Party event.
Immigrant rights groups are asking the federal government to investigate Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's new order
empowering state authorities to expel migrants accused of crossing the border illegally.
In an emailed statement, San Antonio-based immigrant-assistance group RAICES asked the U.S. Justice Department to initiate a probe of Abbott's directive, issued Thursday, calling it a "disgusting political stunt" and an "overreach of power."
Immigration enforcement is federal, not state, responsibility, and political observers have called the Republican governor's latest hardline immigration move a bid to ignite a legal fight with the Biden administration. Abbott, who faces reelection this fall, has made anti-immigrant rhetoric a key part of his campaign
“Once again, Greg Abbott has deployed another disgusting stunt to dehumanize immigrants and stoke anti-immigrant fear and hate in order to score political points,” RAICES officials said.
The group warned that the governor's maneuver would increase the number of state law enforcement officers tasked with doing work outside of their jurisdiction.
"Not only is this yet another example of Abbott’s overreach of power but it’s also a huge waste of state taxpayer dollars," officials with RAICES added. "Texans should not have to foot the bill for Abbott’s political games."
Abbott's Operation Lone Star, a $3 billion initiative to arrest migrants on state crimes such as trespassing is already under DOJ investigation for alleged civil rights violations, according to state documents
Other groups joined RAICES in its condemnation. They called Abbott's order racist and accused him of endangering immigrants by calling border crossings an "invasion" in his order. They pointed to the deaths of 53 migrants
this month in a tractor-trailer in San Antonio as evidence of the hardships faced by those seeking a better life here.
"By engaging in racist, harmful invasion rhetoric, which has no basis in reality, the governor is going against international and domestic law," said Priscilla Orta, supervising attorney with Lawyers for Good Government's Project Corazon. "Seeking asylum is both a legal and human right — and as we saw last week in San Antonio — something people are willing to die for."
Amnesty International USA called on the White House to push back at Abbott by fully restoring the ability of migrants to make asylum claims at the border.
"It’s time for the Biden administration to show leadership against Governor Abbott’s racist actions by fully restoring access to asylum at the border. Asylum seekers must have the ability to pursue their claims safely in communities," said Amy Fischer, an advocacy director for the human rights group.
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