Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas Gov. Abbott Order Targeting Migrants

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Federal Judge Kathleen Cardone has now stopped the implementation of an order that Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott issued targeting the transportation of migrants in his state. That order outlawed the transportation of many migrants by anyone other than law enforcement personnel — but the federal government works with non-governmental entities to provide transportation for migrants. Thus, Abbott’s order was poised to impede the orderly carrying out of federal immigration policy. The governor cast his move as meant to thwart the spread of COVID-19, but there is no apparent meaningful evidence that the rates of infection among migrants are significantly higher than those above American citizens. Abbott’s order was just nonsense.

The Department of Justice previously filed a lawsuit against Abbott over his order, and that lawsuit provided some of the context for Cardone’s new ruling. As the judge put it in her ruling, the supposed public health grounds for Abbott’s original policy seem non-existent. She commented as follows:

‘Indeed, recent data shows that ‘migrants generally test positive at similar or lower rates than Americans living in the counties where they are tested.’.. And Texas’ single anecdotal example of noncitizens posing a public health risk — a migrant family apparently coughing without wearing masks in a restaurant — is not sufficient evidence that the Order will be effective in combating COVID-19 in Texas.’

Originally, the Justice Department insisted in its lawsuit over Abbott’s order that the measure “violates the Supremacy Clause and causes injury to the United States and to individuals whom the United States is charged to protect, jeopardizing the health and safety of noncitizens in federal custody, risking the safety of federal law enforcement personnel and their families, and exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.” The Supremacy Clause is a part of the Constitution that, in certain contexts, places that document above state-level laws, while Abbott’s order could have helped facilitate the further spread of COVID-19 through means including facilitating unnecessary face-to-face interactions involving law enforcement personnel. With the order in place, officers would be making stops to check for unauthorized transportation of migrants.

As the Justice Department also put it in their original lawsuit, Abbott’s order “obstructs the Federal Government’s arrangements with nongovernmental partners and directly interferes with the administration of federal immigration law.” Notably, Abbott has resisted basic safety measures to combat COVID-19 in his state to the point that he has sought to ban schools from facilitating mask mandates. With that kind of lax approach to a deadly pandemic well-established, does Abbott really expect observers to take his executive order as a serious effort against COVID-19?