A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott‘s controversial order prohibiting the ground transportation of migrants, ruling that it is likely to be found unconstitutional in a blow to Abbott’s immigration policy agenda.
U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in the Western District of Texas also ruled that the 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.
The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department last week, just days after the Texas Governor issued the immigration order.
Abbott’s order seeks to make it illegal to provide ground transportation to a group of migrants who have been detained by immigration officials for crossing the border illegally or who would have been expelled from the country under current border policy.
The directive instructs law enforcement to stop any vehicle on “reasonable suspicion” of doing so – and also authorizes the state to impound vehicles. Abbott, a Republican, cites the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential spread of the virus as the basis of the order.
The recent order appears aimed at non-governmental organizations that often transport migrants from Customs and Border Protection stations to shelters and other destinations, as well as at Greyhound buses, which are frequently used by migrants to travel after being released from federal custody. Both sometimes operate under contract, or in connection with, the federal government.
The Justice Department sued Texas over the order Friday, arguing that the order violates the federal government’s broad authority over immigration enforcement and “will severely disrupt the Federal Government’s efforts to carry out its responsibilities under the federal immigration laws.”
The Justice Department also argued that the order would jeopardize the health and safety of migrants, federal immigration personnel and communities at large.