A federal judge on Tuesday blocked Texas from restricting who can transport immigrants after they cross the southern border, delivering a blow to Gov. Greg Abbott’s anti-immigration efforts.
The ruling, issued by US District Judge Kathleen Cardone, came just a week after Abbott issued an executive order notifying state officials that only law enforcement officials could transport immigrants who crossed the border unlawfully and were detained or subject to a policy that allows quick expulsions. Abbott added that the Texas Department of Public Safety was “directed to stop any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion of a violation.”
It was the latest legal maneuver by a Republican governor who has been critical of the Biden administration’s approach to immigration policy. Abbott had successfully challenged President Joe Biden’s moratorium on deportations and joined a group of states that convinced a judge to no longer allow new DACA applications.
“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,” Cardone wrote in the order.
The temporary restraining order will remain in effect until Aug. 13, when the two sides will appear for a follow-up hearing on whether Cardone should continue to block the Texas policy.
Officials told Cardone that Abbott’s executive order would “significantly impact” their operations and make it more difficult to transport detained immigrants to other locations, including local organizations that support those who are released and shelters that oversee unaccompanied immigrant children. The Department of Homeland Security often relies on contractors and local organizations to help transport migrants who were previously detained.
“The executive order will severely disrupt the Federal Government’s efforts to carry out its responsibilities under the federal immigration laws,” the Department of Justice wrote in its lawsuit, which was filed last week.
“The Order would jeopardize the health and safety of noncitizens in federal government custody, federal law enforcement personnel and their families, and our communities,” Attorney General Merrick Garland wrote. “Among other harms, the Order would exacerbate and prolong overcrowding in facilities and shelters and obstruct the federal government's arrangements with state, local, and non- governmental partners to ensure that released individuals are transported for appropriate COVID-19 testing to address public health concerns.”
The ruling also comes as the Biden administration continues its use of a Trump-era policy that allows border agents to immediately turn back those who cross the border without authorization, a move that was criticized by immigrant advocates on Monday. A senior DHS official told a federal court judge overseeing a separate lawsuit over that policy that the agency was "likely to have encountered about 210,000 individuals in July" — the highest number since 2000.
"July also likely included a record number of unaccompanied child encounters...and the second-highest number of family unit encounters,” the official added.