State Watch

Texas governor restricts transportation of migrants who ‘pose a risk of carrying COVID-19’ into communities

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Wednesday issued an executive order aimed at preventing nongovernmental entities from providing ground transportation to migrants “who pose a risk of carrying COVID-19 into Texas communities.” 

The action is just the latest move by Abbott, who has been endorsed by former President Trump in his reelection bid, to address the surge in migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, especially following arguments this week from local law enforcement that migrants were fueling the spread of COVID-19 across Texas. 

The order states that “no person, other than a federal, state, or local law-enforcement official, shall provide ground transportation to a group of migrants who have been detained by CBP [Customs and Border Protection] for crossing the border illegally or who would have been subject to expulsion under the Title 42 order.” 

Title 42 refers to the Trump-era policy kept in place under the Biden administration that allows border officials to immediately expel migrants they detain between ports of entry, citing COVID-19 concerns. 

Abbott’s order also directs the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to “stop any vehicle upon suspicion” of transporting migrants and mandates that DPS is authorized to “impound a vehicle” that had been used to provide transportation to a group of migrants. 

“The dramatic rise in unlawful border crossings has also led to a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases among unlawful migrants who have made their way into our state,” Abbott said in a statement. “We must do more to protect Texans from this virus and reduce the burden on our communities.” 

“This Executive Order will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in our communities,” he added. 

The order comes after the La Joya Police Department in Texas earlier this week brought attention to a migrant family who was allegedly released by CBP agents due to positive COVID-19 tests. 

The officer said he also witnessed a group of 20 to 30 people without masks staying at a local hotel with the support of the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. 

Multiple advocacy organizations have already condemned Abbott’s order, with Kate Huddleston, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, saying in a statement that the GOP governor’s “latest efforts to make Texas an anti-immigrant police state are yet another unconstitutional assault on civil rights targeting border communities.” 

“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,” she argued, adding that the move continues a “long, racist history” of “placing blame for the spread of disease onto immigrants and communities at the border.” 

Abbott’s order came a day after he instructed the National Guard to help local law enforcement arrest migrants. Troops deployed under state orders are legally allowed to conduct law enforcement.

Tags coronavirus pandemic coronavirus surge Donald Trump immigration policy migrant surge National Guard Texas U.S.-Mexico border

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