Judge Extends Halt on Texas Governor Greg Abbott's Migrant Transportation Ban

A temporary restraining order that blocks Texas Governor Greg Abbott's directive to state troopers to pull over vehicles suspected of transporting migrants was extended two weeks by a federal judge in El Paso on Friday.

Abbott issued his executive order on July 28, and a news release from his office said its purpose was to restrict "ground transportation of migrants who pose a risk of carrying COVID-19 into Texas communities."

Abbot's order directed Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to "stop any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion" of transporting migrants who had been released by Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The troopers were instructed to "reroute such vehicles back to its point of origin or a port of entry," though troopers were also given the authority to impound any vehicles thought to be in violation.

U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone originally issued a temporary restraining order on August 3, and that order expired Friday. She extended the restraining order by an additional two weeks on Friday, and the judge said she believed the U.S. Department of Justice will likely succeed in a lawsuit to block Abbott's executive order on the grounds that it's a violation of federal supremacy on immigration issues.

In its lawsuit, the Justice Department claimed Abbott's order would interfere with federal immigration officials in their work with contractors and non-governmental organizations that host migrants as they await legal rulings.

Justice Department attorneys added in court filings that no evidence has been provided that would prove Abbott's order would curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

Abbott's transportation order has also been criticized due to the governor prohibiting local governments and schools from mandating masks as a way to slow COVID-19 spread.

"We all know the CDC, the science, the World Health Organization, all have said that these masks help in preventing the spread of COVID-19. But then he's gonna blame it on the migrants," Domingo Garcia, national president for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said to Houston Public Media.

The nonprofit news organization El Paso Matters reported that attorneys for Abbott and the state of Texas told Cardone during an August 3 hearing that his executive order had not yet been put into place, citing the Department of Public Safety hadn't decided how to enforce the new policy.

In her original ruling, Cardone said Abbott's 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."

After Cardone first issued the restraining order, Abbott condemned the move. "The Biden Administration has knowingly—and willfully—released COVID-19 positive migrants into Texas communities, risking the potential exposure and infection of Texas residents," he said in a statement. "The Governor's Executive Order attempts to prevent the Biden Administration from spreading COVID-19 into Texas and protect the health and safety of Texans."

El Paso Matters reported Cardone said during Friday's hearing that she would decide within the next two weeks whether to combine the Justice Department's lawsuit with a separate suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of immigrant rights organizations

Newsweek contacted Gov. Abbott's office for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

Greg Abbott Speaks at a Press Conference
A federal judge has extended a block on Texas Governor Greg Abbott's order for state troopers to pull over cars suspected of transporting migrants. In this photo, Abbott speaks during a press conference on June 8, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Montinique Monroe/Getty Images