Federal judge grants DOJ an injunction on Abbott's ban of ground transportation of migrants

AP Photo/Gregory Bull

Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice sued Governor Abbott over Abbott’s ban on ground transportation of illegal migrants last week. The purpose of his order is to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Texas and across the country. Migrants are testing positive for COVID-19 yet still being transported in vehicles, to ease overcrowding in shelters in border communities. A federal judge granted a temporary injunction to halt Abbott’s order Tuesday.

Abbott’s order said that “DPS is to stop & reroute, or impound any vehicle being used to transport illegal migrants who have been detained by Border Patrol.” Critics said this would lead to illegal stops by law enforcement and profiling. The goal is to stop anyone other than law enforcement from transporting migrants who may be infected with COVID-19 from place to place. This order is part of a disaster declaration signed by the governor on July 28. The DOJ threatened to sue if Abbott didn’t rescind the order. He didn’t so the DOJ sued.

Judge Kathleen Cardone, United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, granted a temporary injunction. She cited the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution as her reason for doing so. The Supremacy Clause states that the federal government is “the supreme law of the land” and federal law takes priority over state law. Her order prevents any state or local agents from enforcing any part of Abbott’s executive order as it pertains to transporting migrants. The DOJ claimed that state and local
officials were obstructing the federal government by limiting who could transport migrants taken into custody.

She cited two reasons, including because “it conflicts with, and poses an obstacle to, federal immigration law” and “it directly regulates the federal government’s operations.”

Her order continued: “The Executive Order causes irreparable injury to the United States and to individuals the United States is charged with protecting, jeopardizing the health and safety of non-citizens in federal custody, risking the safety of federal law enforcement personnel and their families, and exacerbating the spread of COVID-19.”

Hmm. She cites the “health and safety of non-citizens in federal custody” and chooses their health and safety over that of legal residents. The whole purpose of the ban on moving migrants around without proper supervision is to protect border communities that receive the overflow of migrants from shelters, often without local officials even being notified. COVID-19 spreads which endangers the health and safety of legal residents in these communities. Abbott says he is doing the job that the federal government won’t do in Texas.

Abbott said in a statement that the executive order was issued to protect Texans during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the “failures” of the Biden administration’s handling of the migrant crisis.

“I take very seriously my duties and responsibilities as the Governor of the State of Texas,” Abbott said in the statement. “I have the authority, and duty, under the constitutions of the United States and of Texas to protect Texans and our nation. I also have the authority under long-established emergency response laws to control the movement of people to better contain the spread of a disaster, such as those known to have COVID-19. My duty remains to the people of Texas, and I have no intention of abdicating that.”

The Biden administration is pleading with Americans to get vaccinated and do their part to mitigate the coronavirus yet the southern border is still open for a flood of migrants to cross over in the United States. Border Patrol and local law enforcement are overwhelmed by the numbers of migrants and they are not able to test them for COVID-19 as they are taken to shelters or released into border communities. Shelters put them on busses or planes and they travel on to other communities, often despite being contagious.

DOJ argues that the federal government “relies heavily on contractors and grantees to transport unaccompanied children to ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) custody.” We know that the number of unaccompanied minors is at an all-time high and there is not enough personnel to properly care for them. If the policies of the previous administration were still in place, the humanitarian and public health crisis on the southern border wouldn’t exist as it does now. Biden’s policies are failing Americans, who are his first responsibility and encouraging the number of migrants to continue to grow, even in the hottest months of the summer.

Governor Abbott will continue the fight in court.