Just when we thought Texas Gov. Greg Abbott couldn’t get more racist—we spoke too soon. On Tuesday, the GOP governor ordered state child care regulators to revoke the licenses of facilities that foster undocumented minors who crossed the state’s southern border and were detained. According to The Morning Dallas News, at least 52 state-licensed residential operations and child-placing agencies in the state have contracts with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement to care for these undocumented immigrant children. All are at risk of losing their license.

Abbott’s order comes under the guise of addressing the “border crisis” in Texas. He claims he’s protecting landowners in southern counties from “trespassers and the damage they cause to private property.” Abbott not only blamed the current administration for an “unabated influx” of immigrant children and claimed by taking the necessary steps to revoke licenses of facilities that house them he will be decreasing “criminal trespassing, smuggling, and human trafficking,” but he connected an increase in immigration to the state’s foster care crisis.

“President Biden’s open-border policies have paved the way for dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers, and deadly drugs like fentanyl to pour into our communities,” Abbott said in a statement. “Meanwhile, landowners along the border are seeing their property damaged and vandalized on a daily basis while the Biden Administration does nothing to protect them. Texas continues to step up to confront the border crisis in the federal government’s absence, but more must be done.

“By declaring a state of disaster in these counties, Texas will have more resources and strategies at our disposal to protect landowners and enforce all federal and state laws to combat criminal activities stemming from the border crisis. Working together with local law enforcement, the state will continue to take robust and meaningful action to keep our communities safe,” Abbott added.

Abbott plans to force these agencies to stop serving minors within three months by removing their state licenses, which qualify them for federal contracts. While it is unclear exactly how many children are in Texas facilities, there are at least 17,000 unaccompanied children nationwide, according to data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.

If facilities were to lose their licenses and be unable to support and house these children, children could be held in the Customs and Border Protection stations instead. Such facilities have been known to treat immigrants badly and have little to no resources.

Texas already faces a foster care crisis with providers relinquishing contracts with the Department of Family and Protective Services, resulting in hundreds of children each month having no suitable placements, The Morning Dallas News reported. Children have been bunked in Child Protective Services (CPS) offices, hotels, or churches, attended overnight by CPS workers. Revoking licenses of facilities that house immigrant children will only further this crisis, not address it. While more care facilities are needed, Abbott’s order will only reduce the availability of facilities and thus increase the overall problem.

According to Leecia Welch, attorney at the National Center for Youth Law, more than 4,000 children are expected to be displaced in the state with the executive order. Welch and others noted that such an order would not help but further the “crisis” the country faces in addition to other obstacles such as forcing providers to leave the state and putting thousands out of their jobs.

“This would be a major setback,” former federal child welfare official Mark Greenberg said. “It would be enormously disruptive to the providers who have been providing shelter and services to unaccompanied children in Texas for many years, and have substantial expertise and experience from providing those services.”

As the pandemic continues, the need for adequate housing for children and migrants is more important than ever. Children should not be displaced, be put in hotels, or be in detention centers— especially under the guise of addressing a foster care crisis. We must do better as humans to ensure injustice does not take place. Children and families leaving their homes for a better life should not be subject to further abuse. We cannot let Republicans like Abbott use immigrant children as scapegoats to advance a xenophobic agenda. 

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