WASHINGTON D.C. - White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dismissed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s recently announced plan to put undocumented immigrants in his state onto a bus and send them to the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
"I think it's pretty clear that this is a publicity stunt," Psaki told Fox News’ Peter Doocy in the White House press room on Thursday. "I know that the governor of Texas, or any state, does not have the legal authority to compel anyone to get on a bus."
Psaki continued, "His own office admits that a migrant would need to voluntarily be transported and he can’t compel them to because, again, enforcement of our country’s immigration laws lies with the federal government and not a state."
Abbott said Wednesday that undocumented immigrants released into his state will be shipped to the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., as border checkpoints struggle to manage the flow of people attempting to enter the United States and the Biden administration's move to eliminate the Title 42 expulsion provision.
The state will provide charter buses to drop off migrants – many released into small Texas communities that officials say are overwhelmed – in Washington, the Republican governor said in a news conference.
"We are sending them to the United States Capitol where the Biden administration will be able to more immediately address the needs of the people that they are allowing to come across our border," Abbott said.
The governor added, "With the end of Title 42 expulsions looming next month, Texas will immediately begin taking unprecedented action to do what no state has done in American history to secure our border. The new strategies announced today and next week will further strengthen our already robust response to the Biden border disaster, and we will use any and all lawful powers to curtail the flow of drugs, human traffickers, undocumented immigrants, weapons, and other contraband into Texas."
Abbott's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News.
The Biden administration announced last week that it will be terminating the Title 42 public health policy, that has been used by both the Trump and Biden administrations to quickly expel migrants at the southern border since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, at the end of May – despite fears of a massive migrant wave in the coming months.
"After considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19 (such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics), the CDC Director has determined that an Order suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary," the Centers for Disease Control said in a statement.
The order was implemented by the Trump administration due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and has since been used by both the Trump and Biden administrations to expel a majority of migrants at the border. While it is a public health order, not an immigration policy, it has become one of the central border policies in place as the U.S. faces a continuing crisis of numbers at the border. In February, approximately 55% of migrants were returned due to the order, rather than being released into the U.S.
Republicans and some moderate Democratic lawmakers, as well as law enforcement at the border, have expressed concern that it could lead to a surge in migration that could overwhelm agents and exceed the enormous numbers seen last year. Former Trump White House adviser Stephen Miller said that ending Title 42 would "open the floodgates on a biblical scale."
"At every opportunity, Biden has enacted policies that open our southern border, empower drug smugglers and human traffickers, and make American communities less safe. Joe Biden has overseen the worst border crisis in DHS history," Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. "By removing Title 42, Biden’s doubling down on his commitment to actively worsening the crisis he created."
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FOX News’ Louis Casiano and Adam Shaw contributed to this report
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