In a letter obtained first by the Washington Examiner, Gov. Greg Gianforte and Attorney General Austin Knudsen maintained to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that they opposed the idea of Customs and Border Protection using Immigration and Customs Enforcement airplanes to transport migrant families and children across the country due to a shortage of holding facilities in states on the southern border.
"Montana is unable to care for those individuals and should not have to bear the public safety costs this reported action will impose," Gianforte and Knudsen wrote. "Know this: if these reports are confirmed, we will take any and all appropriate legal measures to immediately prevent these relocation efforts."
Gianforte and Knudsen did not reveal the type of legal action that they would take against the Biden administration.
The Washington Post reported last week that border officials sought to process and hold people coming over between land ports of entry by flying them to other regions where facilities are empty and personnel are available. Last Friday morning, 1,000 children without parents and families were encountered by Border Patrol agents, who already had 1,000 other people in custody but had not interviewed and booked them into the system due to a shortage of resources.
CBP told the Washington Examiner at the time that it had not flown anyone to other facilities, but it did not deny recently having requested or considering doing so.
Michigan Rep. Lisa McClain, a Republican, deemed the plan "deeply troubling" following the report and urged the Biden administration not to move forward because of the risks it poses amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, CBP is not testing people in its custody for the coronavirus ahead of releasing them into the country but is instead relying on nonprofit organizations and local governments to do so. The Greyhound bus company reportedly is urging the Biden administration to come up with a way to guarantee that migrants seeking to board its buses from the border have tested negative before being transported across the country. Migrants who are released rely on Greyhound and other bus companies to travel to their final destinations in the United States.
The air transfer of people from the border to other federal facilities far away is not unprecedented. During the peak of the 2019 border surge, when unprecedented numbers of migrant families crossed into the U.S., the Trump administration also used ICE flights to send families to different border sectors that had the capacity to hold them.