Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order Wednesday that allows Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to reroute vehicles suspected to be transporting migrants back to their origin point or point of entry, and seize vehicles from non-compliant drivers.
“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, and we must do more to protect Texans from this virus and reduce the burden on our communities,” Abbott said in a statement. He went on to attack the Biden administration’s “failure” to enforce Title 42 that was imposed during the Trump administration and allowed U.S. Customs and Border Protection to turn migrants away at the border.
Under Abbott’s new order, only law enforcement officials will be able to provide detained migrants with ground transport. The action prohibits migrants released into the interior to await processing or court dates from accessing public transit or aid by nonprofits to get elsewhere within Texas or the greater US.
The governor’s action has elicited significant backlash from immigration rights advocates. 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 framed his decision as a response to the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state, though he has continued to reiterate that he will neither impose another statewide mask mandate or allow local government officials to do so. He also recently rejected new guidance issued by the CDC on Tuesday.
“The time for government mask mandates is over—now is the time for personal responsibility. In May, I signed an executive order prohibiting mask mandates by gov’t entities,” the governor wrote in a tweet. “Every Texan has the right to choose whether they will wear a mask or have their children wear masks.”