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How about we sue you for a change?

The state of Texas has sued the federal government more times than I can count in recent years. There may be examples of the reverse happening, but offhand I can’t think of any. As such, this may be a first.

The Biden administration is threatening to sue Texas over its plans to stop state-licensed facilities that are contracted with the federal government from housing migrant children, with a federal attorney calling the state’s move a “direct attack” on federal refugee resettlement efforts.

The federal response comes after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered last week that Texas child care regulators revoke the licenses of state-licensed facilities that house migrant children. The move, the latest by the Republican governor as he spars with President Joe Biden over immigration policies, would force the facilities to stop serving unaccompanied minors or lose their license to serve any children.

Texas officials have already begun instructing the 52 state-licensed facilities serving migrant children to wind down operations by Aug. 30, following Abbott’s order, according to a notice sent to shelters by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

In a letter sent Monday to Abbott and other Texas officials, Paul Rodriguez, a top attorney for the federal Department of Health and Human Services, said Texas’ move violates the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which says federal law supersedes state laws. He asked the recipients to clarify whether they intended that the order be applied to those shelters, which are overseen by HHS and its refugee resettlement branch, the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

He wrote that the federally contracted shelters “comprise a significant portion of ORR’s total operational footprint, and represent an indispensable component of the Federal immigration system.”

If Abbott’s May 31 order includes those ORR facilities, it “would be a direct attack on this system,” Rodriguez said in the letter. He gave the state until Friday to clarify whether the order will affect those facilities.

If so, he said legal action could follow.

[…]

The governor’s office did not respond to questions about the potential relocation of children who are housed in the state-licensed shelters or whether the state was considering backing down on its order in light of the HHS letter.

Abbott pointed to the state’s foster care capacity woes as one of the reasons for his order. Hundreds of foster children have spent nights in hotels, community organizations or Child Protective Services offices because there weren’t enough suitable placements as dozens of foster care providers relinquished their contracts with the state due largely to higher scrutiny on the system.

“The unabated influx of individuals resulting from federal government policies threatens to negatively impact state-licensed residential facilities, including those that serve Texas children in foster care,” Abbott wrote in the order.

Only 134 migrant children were housed in federally contracted Texas facilities that also serve foster children as of May 10, according to the data gathered by the Associated Press.

Patrick Crimmins, a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokesperson, said unaccompanied immigrant children don’t enter the state’s foster care system directly. They would only be in the system if they had to be removed from family members with whom federal employees placed them.

“There are no children in foster care simply because they are an unaccompanied minor. Children are only in foster care because of abuse or neglect that is reported to us and investigated by us,” Crimmins said.

Asked how Abbott’s order might affect the foster system’s placement shortages, Crimmins replied, “We don’t know that yet.”

Abbott’s claim is that the feds have foisted an unfunded mandate on Texas, which strikes me as a perennial complaint that is made whenever it’s convenient. It’s also a little rich given the recent “certain cities can never spend less money on the police” legislation. This is a political squabble more than anything, though with the higher stakes of having a direct effect on some number of children. Putting those very real effects aside for a moment, the political fight will turn on the question of who gets blamed for any harm that results to these children. (Yes, I know exactly how awful that sounds.) We have one possible data point from this Chron story:

Texans back President Joe Biden’s approach to immigration over Gov. Greg Abbott’s by nearly 10 percentage points, according to a new poll released as the clash between the governor and Biden administration over border policy continues to escalate.

The poll, conducted at the end of May, found 44 percent of Texans approve of Biden’s handling of immigration compared to 35 percent who approve of Abbott’s. The online poll of 506 Texas residents was conducted by Spectrum News and Ipsos and had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percentage points.

The poll link appears to be broken. I’d be dubious of it even if I could inspect it, as Biden has generally polled worse on immigration and the border than he has overall. It’s also one poll result, with all the usual caveats. That said, if this comes down to video images of possibly crying children being relocated, even if it’s just from one shelter to another, “Abbott gave the order to close the shelters” will outweigh “Abbott blames Biden for not giving the state enough money for the children in the shelters”. I could be wrong about that, of course, and if it turns into litigation I suspect a judge would step in and halt any closures for the time being, until the legal questions can get sorted out. I suspect Abbott knows that part as well, so again this comes back to being a partisan fight. Abbott doesn’t generally back down from those when he’s opposite the feds. Expect this to take awhile to come to a resolution. Daily Kos has more.

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8 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    I have a compromise. What if Texas just agreed to pay to house the illegals across the border….in Mexico, where they could be cared for in a more familiar environment, where everyone speaks Spanish, the food served would be similar to what the illegals are used to, and here’s the best part…..it would be orders of magnitude cheaper to pay Mexican child care workers to take care of the illegal children than it would be to pay American workers, American rental prices, American utility prices, etc.

    I see this as Win-Win. The kids are taken care of, it’s cheaper for the Texas taxpayers…..what’s not to like?

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    This is a good move by Abbott to bring attention to the kids at the border, in cages, pulled away from their families by a racist administration. I saw Joe Biden’s boss, Mrs. Harris, on TV, getting mad at the TV guy, when he asked when she would go to to the border. Mrs. Harris said that we’ve been to the border. And the TV guy said, no you haven’t. And she said what’s your point we haven’t been to Europe or to Antarctica.

    The point is that Biden caused a crisis at the border, and he is putting kids in cages, and he is letting the corona virus in to Texas, and he can’t figure out what to do, so he asked his boss, Mrs. Harris, to deal with it, but she hasn’t.

  3. C.L. says:

    Dr. Hochman, you’ve repeatedly said you (and the rest of us) stand a 99.6% chance of surviving COVID-19, so I’m wondering why you’re now concerned with Joe Biden ‘letting it into Texas’. Can you explain this (inexplicable) change in your position or concerns ?

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    C.L.:

    Let me explain something you already know. It’s Alinsky tactics, force your enemy to live up to their own rules. Jason is forcing you to live up to your own leftist narrative about the Wu flu.

    Your rule is, the Wu flu is a deadly plague that will surely kill us all and we have to destroy businesses and jobs, except for companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Apple, of course.

    So Jason has taken your truth, and forced you to deal with the cognitive dissonance of “it’s a deadly killer” with, we’re just lettin’ e’erybody all up in here, and we don’t care what diseases they carry.

    Either the Wu flu is incredibly dangerous and needs to be physically stopped from entering the US, or it’s not really a problem, and yes, let’s let the whole 3rd World, terrorists, and every other undesirable in the world into the US.

    I use the exact same Alinsky strategy when talking about black people, and notice you can’t respond, because however you do respond is going to paint you in a bad light.

    It’s up to YOU to explain why we should on one hand, live in terror of the Wu flu, and on the other hand, celebrate diseased illegals flooding our neighborhoods, C.L.

    We’ll wait.

  5. policywonqueria says:

    BLACKOWHITE EITHER/OR FALLACY FOR SIMPLETONS

    Proposition: “Either the Wu flu is incredibly dangerous and needs to be physically stopped from entering the US, or it’s not really a problem.”

    This is a false dichotomy.

    See generally here: https://owl.excelsior.edu/argument-and-critical-thinking/logical-fallacies/logical-fallacies-false-dilemma/

    Dead vs. alive is an acceptable dichotomy to describe individual organisms (humans, livestock, pets). Same is not true of aggregates. So, the severity of an epidemic disease must be measured differently, and all such measures are quantitative variables: Percentages, rates, ratios, incidence, probability estimates, etc.. Not a question of either/or, except in terms of presence vs. absense (i.e., incidence of zero at the beginning when the virus has not yet been imported into a particular geographic area).

    As to how many premature deaths, and how much risk, are acceptable, that is not an empirical matter at all. It’s a value judgment: a normative choice that is properly characterized as political when made at the governmental level (as distinguished from individual risk perception, risk tolerance, and associated behaviorial choices).

    Further, there is a distinction between morbidity and mortality. Death is not the only adverse event and outcome to worry about.

    But even it were so, how many premature deaths are okay? – Science has no answer to this.

    Of course, if you only care about yourself, let the rest of humanity go to hell. No number will be too big as long as long is it’s not you.

  6. Jason Hochman says:

    C.L., Bill has explained the point that if the C-19 is the most dangerous illness ever, as some would have us believe, then those who believe it, should act to prevent its spread. More than through some lip service of wearing a piece of paper or cut up old Metallica tour shirt over your face.

    But, more than that, we’ve got to consider the cruelty of the kids, being confined in close quarters, in cages, with others who may have the illness, and the potential for rampant spread.

    policywonq, thanks for your thoughtful response, however, this is not an either/or fallacy situation. There is a greater risk that the numbers of “cases” in the state can drive policies. Too many cases, and we can be ordered to close everything, hide, and wear a mask to go outside the house for a minute. Any increase in cases can be used as fodder against Gov. Abbott, for being too quick to ease restrictions. If it got bad enough, Joe Biden might even take back the Fourth of July, and tell us never mind, we can’t get together with three relatives or neighbors (all with masks and 6′ apart), to grill a few hotdogs on the Fourth.

    We have been facing this tyranny based on arbitrary numbers. For example, why is the county on red alert until positivity rates are 5% or less? Why not 6.8%? or 3.2%? And why did Biden come up with his 100 day mask challenge? Why not 87 days? or 112? These numbers are arbitrary. Just random numbers they have come up with. That is not science.

    It is a fact that the case fatality rate of Covid 19 is below 1%. It is close to a bad flu season. If you are 50 and under, your odds of serious illness or death are low. And the deaths are way over counted. Texas Rep. Ron Wright died of Covid. But he had lung cancer, too. And singer/songwriter John Prine died of Covid. He also had a history of lung cancer. I guess that wasn’t a factor? But, again, facts here, lung cancer is unfortunately a serious condition, and the five year survival rate is perhaps 20%, so, those are two high profile Covid deaths who were, to say the least, in fragile circumstances.

  7. policywonqueria says:

    FACTS VS. VALUES: NORM-SETTING IS NOT SCIENCE

    Hochman: Policy judgment have to be made, and are made, all the time. That doesn’t make them arbitrary in the sense of random.

    Same even for voting age. Why is it 18 now but not earlier, and lower even in some places elsehwere in the world?

    Drinking age? Why is it 21? Age to have an abortion, or be liable for child support, or have sex in the first instance? What’s the proper age for criminal liabilty? And when are you mature enough to be eligible to be killed – either in a war, or in an excecution chamber?

    And what about speed limits and other rules of the road?

    FREEDOM TO MOVE AS YOU PLEASE

    Why do have to drive on the right of the road, rather than the left? – By your reasoning, that’s arbitrary too. That may be technically be so (and Brits and Commonwealth countries still drive on the left, to provide support for your position), but that doesn’t detract from the utility of having a rule that everyone is required to follow so as to have an orderly traffic flow, and thereby reduce the incidence of accidents, blunt-force trauma, maimings, and death.

  8. Jason Hochman says:

    Policy: you are right, but speed limits are supposed to calculated in accordance with the National Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. There is a long history about which side of the road to drive on. Way back in the time when cars were new and there were not traffic laws, and cars had the drivers seat on either side.

    The age of majority is another arbitrary number, but it varies from state to state, and has changed in response to the evolution of social norms and customs.

    What is different in this case: Policy judgment masquerading as “science” and “following the science.” Any debate about these Covid metrics is derided as anti science conservative rubes, selfishness, insanity, or worse.

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