DOJ to Abbott: Rescind ban on transporting COVID-infected migrants or else

Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP

The Biden border crisis is not just a humanitarian crisis, it’s also a public health crisis. That issue was brought to the forefront earlier this week when a family infected with COVID-19 left their hotel room and walked over to Whataburger. That trip likely exposed many people to the coronavirus. The hotel is near a migrant shelter that is overwhelmed with illegal migrants in Hidalgo County, Texas. The overflow is housed in hotel rooms. Unfortunately, the hotel didn’t monitor the migrants to make sure they remained in their rooms.

Naturally, when this story surfaced, the local officials were alarmed. Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez demanded that the federal government stop releasing COVID-19 infected illegal migrants into local communities.

Governor Abbott responded by calling on the Texas National Guard to assist DPS in arresting illegal migrants. He also issued an order Wednesday that bans ground transportation of migrants who “pose a risk of carrying COVID-19 into Texas communities.” “This executive order will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in our communities,” said Abbott. The executive order states that “DPS is to stop & reroute, or impound any vehicle being used to transport illegal migrants who have been detained by Border Patrol.”

In the latest executive order by Abbott, he noted COVID-19 cases were spreading in border cities like La Joya, a city of about 4,200 west of McAllen and within Hidalgo County. Earlier this week, the La Joya police department held a news conference to draw attention to a hotel being used to house migrants, including some with COVID-19. They said that the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley had booked the hotel for the migrants, and that they hadn’t been notified.

The office of the Texas Attorney General pointed out that the Abbott administration has sued the Biden administration five times so far over immigration policies implemented as Biden took office, pivoting away from the successful policies in place from the Trump administration. The Biden border crisis continues to escalate. On Tuesday night, the largest group of migrants taken into custody this year was apprehended.

A DPS spokesperson said the agency was “committed to securing our border under the direction” of the governor and through his executive orders. “While the department does not discuss operational specifics, we will continue to monitor the situation at the border to make real-time decisions and adjust operations as necessary,” the spokesperson said in a written statement.

DPS didn’t respond to questions about how the agency’s staff would know who in a vehicle was undocumented or should have been expelled under a controversial Trump-era order tied to the pandemic. It’s known as Title 42 and is still in place for the majority of migrants apprehended at the southwest border. An exception are unaccompanied minors traveling without a parent or legal guardian. Their numbers, through June, have surpassed the entire fiscal year of 2019, a high mark for apprehensions of migrant minors.

Tuesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection picked up 706 unaccompanied migrant teens and children — an unusual amount during a period when migration typically goes down.

Tuesday night, in the McAllen area, Border Patrol agents also apprehended 509 migrants in a group —the largest cluster taken into custody this year, the federal agency said. Most were traveling with families or as unaccompanied children. Their home countries included El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Venezuela.

The ACLU of Texas responded with the usual hyperbole – Abbott wants to turn Texas into an anti-immigrant police state, you know.

“Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest efforts to make Texas an anti-immigrant police state are yet another unconstitutional assault on civil rights targeting border communities,” Kate Huddleston, an ACLU of Texas attorney, said in a written statement. ” The governor’s order will lead to racial profiling and over-policing — with state troopers pulling over cars and buses without lawful justification, profiling passengers, and questioning people about their immigration status.”

The measure continues a “long, racist history” of blaming immigrants for the spread of disease, Huddleston said. “There is no reason for the governor to halt travel in the state of Texas other than to terrorize these communities and distract from his own leadership failures.”

The reason for the executive order is to try to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by illegal migrants, as she well knows. Also, Governor Abbott is married to Cecilia Abbott, the first Latina First Lady of Texas. He’s not a racist.

The potential for profiling and unlawful stops are cited as concerns by those opposed to the executive order. Attorney General Merrick Garland has weighed in and is threatening Abbott with legal action if he doesn’t rescind his order. Garland calls the restriction on ground transportation “dangerous and unlawful”.

Garland said Abbott’s order, which provides that “no person, other than a federal, state, or local law-enforcement official, shall provide ground transportation to a group of migrants,” cannot be lawfully enforced. He threatened to take legal action against Texas if the Republican governor doesn’t withdraw the order.

“The order would jeopardize the health and safety of noncitizens in federal government custody, federal law enforcement personnel and their families, and our communities,” Garland told Abbott in a letter Thursday, also saying Texas can’t enforce the order against federal officials or private organizations working with the federal government.

Garland cited the Constitution’s supremacy clause, saying, “A state may not interfere with or obstruct these federal officials in the performance of their duties.”

There would be no need for Governor Abbott to sign any of his executive orders that deal with border security and public health if the Biden administration would do its damn job but that isn’t what is happening. Abbott is doing whatever he can to secure the border and prevent the coronavirus from spreading to Texans. That’s his job. Don’t expect him to blink first. Abbott is the former Texas Attorney General and is quite used to suing the federal government over policies that are harmful to Texas. He liked to brag that during his time as Attorney General, he woke up every day during the Obama administration and sued Obama. He’s running for re-election now. The Biden border crisis shows no indication of letting up. Neither does Abbott.