A federal judge temporarily blocked an executive order on Tuesday issued by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) that sought to restrict the ground transportation of migrants.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone agreed with the federal government — which sued Abbott over the order last week — that the executive order would cause “irreparable injury” to the United States and to people the U.S. is “charged with protecting.”
The temporary restraining order Cardone granted will put Abbott’s decree on hold while the courts consider the case.
Issued last Wednesday, Abbott’s order — which immigration rights advocates lambasted as “flagrantly illegal,” unconstitutional and xenophobic — prohibited nongovernment individuals and organizations from transporting migrants released from federal custody in Texas.
The order also gave the Texas Department of Public Safety authority to stop and impound any private vehicle that officers have a “reasonable suspicion” is carrying migrants — a clause that activists said could encourage racial profiling.
Abbott had claimed the order was needed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. However, the Justice Department said in its lawsuit against Abbott that his order would only exacerbate the spread of the virus because a restriction on transportation would “result in immediate backups of unaccompanied children” at federal facilities, thereby increasing the risk of transmission.
Additionally, the Justice Department noted that contractors who are typically hired by the federal government to help transport sick migrants, conduct COVID-19 tests and provide safe spaces for quarantining would not be able to do their jobs under the order.
“The executive order will severely disrupt the Federal Government’s efforts to carry out its responsibilities under the federal immigration laws,” the Justice Department said in its court filing.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said last week that Abbott’s order was both “dangerous and unlawful” and in violation of federal law “in numerous respects.”
Responding to Garland, Abbott said in a letter that his authority “to protect noncitizens directly conflicts with my authority, and duty, to protect citizens of Texas and the United States.”