Republicans move to block Biden from forcing migrant families to remain in Texas

Migrants who crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into the U.S. climb a fence with barbed wire and concertina wire, Monday, Aug. 21, 2023, in Eagle Pass, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Migrants climb a border fence into Eagle Pass, Texas, in August. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened to attempt to block the Biden administration's "remain in Texas" policy. (Eric Gay/AP)

Republican lawmakers have vowed to stop the Biden administration from forcing some migrant families to remain in Texas while awaiting their initial asylum screenings.

The Times reported last week that the administration was considering the "remain in Texas" idea, which would involve tracking migrants' locations using GPS monitoring devices such as ankle monitors. Immigrant advocates criticized the plan, calling it punitive and misguided.

Republican leaders, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, have said they would attempt to block the policy should it be instituted.

“It should be 'remain in Mexico,' not 'remain in Texas,'" Abbott said Monday on Fox News. "We have a lawsuit ready to go that will eliminate this threat by Joe Biden if he dares try to pull the trigger on it."

Abbott has bused thousands of migrants to Democratic cities including New York and Los Angeles since 2022 and promised to send more should the Biden administration attempt to enforce the policy.

In Washington, Texas Republican Rep. August Pfluger introduced an amendment to a government funding bill that would prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from spending any money to advance the "remain in Texas" plan. The existence of the amendment was first reported by Fox News.

"It's not a coincidence that the Biden Administration began considering a 'Remain-in-Texas' policy the same week that New York City Mayor Eric Adams openly criticized the chaos at our border and stated that the migrant crisis 'will destroy New York City,'" Pfluger said in a news release. "Liberal sanctuary cities like New York that openly obstruct federal immigration laws and have policies in place to shield criminals from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should not be immune to the crisis at our border. Biden’s Remain-in-Texas policy must remain in the trash can. I will fight any efforts by this administration to force Texans to bear the brunt of their immigration crisis."

Department of Homeland Security officials had previously said that they are constantly reviewing immigration policies.

“DHS continuously holds policy and operational discussions on how to leverage our authorities to ensure a fair, humane and effective immigration process that efficiently removes those without a lawful basis to stay in the country,” a department spokesperson said last week.

Supporters of the "remain in Texas" effort believe it could help speed up deportations of families who fail the initial asylum screenings and deter other families from entering the country at all.

In recent months, Border Patrol has encountered more families at the southern border. More than 60,000 families crossed the border in July alone, and although official numbers for August have not been released, the Washington Post reported recently that the August number was an all-time record.

The government also attempted to force migrants to remain in Texas at the tail end of President Reagan's administration in the late 1980s.

Local officials criticized the effort, but a federal court eventually ruled it could continue.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.