Update at 8:25 p.m.. with a statement from Governor Abbott’s administration:
EL PASO – A federal judge on Tuesday granted a temporary injunction against an executive order of Texas Governor Greg Abbott restricting the transport of migrants by individuals and businesses, granting a victory to President Joe Biden’s attempts to reassert control of the border migration.
The ruling by US District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone, a Republican appointment of former President George W. Bush, will remain in effect until August 13, or until a later date if extended by the court.
Cardone said the US government is likely to prevail in its claim that the Texas executive order violates the supremacy clause of the US Constitution because it conflicts or impedes federal immigration law. and that it directly regulates the operations of the federal government.
The executive order issued last Wednesday said it went into effect immediately, but Texas state attorneys said in court Monday that it had not yet been implemented and that guidelines would soon be issued. . As a result, Texas had not suffered the irreparable harm required for a temporary injunction, lawyers argued.
On Wednesday evening, Abbott’s press secretary played down the judge’s decision and targeted the Biden administration. “The recent court order is temporary and based on limited evidence … The Biden administration knowingly – and willfully – released COVID-19 positive migrants into communities in Texas, risking exposure and the potential infection of residents of Texas, “wrote press secretary Renae Eze. in a report.
Abbott’s decree was quickly denounced as an attempt to garner support for his bid for re-election as governor and a potential candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. Critics have argued that this could lead to racial profiling as Texas state soldiers stop vehicles of mostly Hispanic people who look like immigrants.
Already, the order was exacerbating the immediate challenges at the Texas border. Nonprofits, many run by Catholics from McAllen to El Paso, were struggling to understand how the measure could disrupt their long-standing efforts to help federal immigration authorities as they moved the migrants to different places or when released to shelters where they were. tested for COVID-19 before moving inside the United States to await their dates in immigration court.
Among those who asked about racial profiling was Daniel Flores, the Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville. He tweeted last week, “How can the Governor’s Order identify them as ‘illegal’ and how their research does not constitute racial profiling of people legally in the United States?”
Catholic Charities RGV helps families referred to us by Border Patrol, a federal entity. How can the Governor’s Order identify them as “illegal” and how does their research not constitute racial profiling of people legally in the United States? https://t.co/Ap2u3O2h44
– Amigo of Frodo (@bpdflores) July 29, 2021
The apprehensions of migrants in June and July in the busiest corridor of the Rio Grande valley surprised more than one, although some are repeat offenders. Apprehensions typically abate during the summer heat, but have increased, according to court documents filed this week in another federal immigration case.
One of the biggest signs of saturation of federal facilities: Migrants are again being deported from the Rio Grande Valley by federal authorities and taken to El Paso and other locations to reduce overcrowding at customs facilities and border protection. One of the most glaring symbols of the challenges are the hundreds of migrants kept out on land under an international bridge near McAllen and watched over by the border patrol.
Ruben Garcia, founder and executive director of Annunciation House in El Paso, said flights to El Paso began about two weeks ago, a full week before Abbott’s decree. He said the influx of migrants is less chaotic in the El Paso-Juarez region because, in large part, migrants are quickly deported under Title 42 linked to the pandemic, which is “rigorously enforced”. This contrasts with the Rio Grande Valley where the Mexican government has refused to accept the return of many migrant families to Tamaulipas, one of the most violent border states.
âThe word is there is a new sheriff in town, who is a lot more empathetic and a lot more compassionate,â Garcia said, referring to Biden. âBiden doesn’t sound like Trump. Biden doesn’t come across as someone who’s willing to take a gun and start shooting migrants.
CBP would only say that some migrants “may be transported by air or land to other” locations along the border. Operational needs are “assessed on a daily basis,” added a CBP spokesperson. CBP did not disclose the number of daily flights.
On Monday, in federal court, a Justice Department lawyer said Abbott’s transport measure could have triggered safeguards and that the reunification of migrants in CBP custody would increase the potential spread of COVID-19.
As the Biden administration contemplates more draconian controls on American citizens, it allows illegal migrants with Covid to enter America freely.
Biden’s open border policies are a disaster, which is why Texas is working to keep our communities safe. pic.twitter.com/d0O1eN9WsU
– Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) August 3, 2021
On Tuesday, David Shahoulian, assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at the Department of Homeland Security, explained how immigrants are tested for COVID in a court affidavit. Those who are not deported under Title 42 are usually transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, a homeland security agency separate from CBP. People who test positive are separated from the rest of the group, he said.
Some migrant families may be released directly from CBP custody – and these people are being tested by partners including state and local governments, nonprofits and third-party contractors, he said. Then people who test positive are isolated, he said. Unaccompanied migrant minors are released after being tested, quarantined and isolated, if necessary, Shahoulian said in his affidavit.
In a court case filed for the Justice Department, Brian Hastings, chief patrol officer for the Rio Grande Valley, said the transfer of border patrol officers from execution to transport typically carried out by sub-contractors would “have a serious impact” on day-to-day operations by decreasing security enforcement.
The pressure on the Biden administration is now coming from several directions: a Republican governor in a race for re-election, lawyers led by the ACLU and county judges who condemn the Republican governor for making matters worse while pleading for Biden for additional financial assistance. Mexico’s government is playing an outsized role as well, and a key diplomat said it continues to comply with Title 42 but has placed some reservations on this cooperation.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez on Monday declared a state of local disaster for a week due to an “alarming number of immigrants” in McAllen. He also cited the increase in positive COVID-19 cases and said McAllen could no longer take care of them. The declaration is a first step in securing federal financial assistance, a spokesperson for Cortez said.
In neighboring Cameron County, whose largest city is Brownsville, County Judge Eddie Trevino asked for help from the Department of Homeland Security on Monday, saying local organizations are “at or beyond their capacity and in need of help.” TreviÃ±o, who is also the chairman of the Texas Border Coalition, called for a Trump-era policy that Title 42 be kept in place to ensure the swift deportation of many migrants. The 20-year-old Texas Border Coalition is an advocacy group for border mayors, county judges and economic development leaders who tackle issues ranging from immigration to transportation.
On Monday, citing the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they would extend Title 42, first put in place by the Trump administration due to the coronavirus pandemic, and would revise it in 60 days.
In El Paso County, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego has taken a different approach, hammering Abbott for his executive order, calling it “irrational” and that will make it difficult to test immigrants for COVID-19 or bring them into effect. quarantine if they are positive. Samaniego said he was concerned about “racial profiling in a predominantly Hispanic community.”
âWe don’t allow ourselves to be divided by others,â Samaniego said in an interview. âWe know who we are and where we are. We still see ourselves as one community, El Paso and Juarez.
All three county judges are Democrats.
Meanwhile, some fear that the Mexican government will be overwhelmed by the reception of so many migrants in Mexican border towns that the United States is “deporting” under Title 42. In Mexico City, Roberto Velasco, director general of the ministry of Foreign Affairs for North America, said the situation at the border was fluid and the government has “day-to-day negotiations that depend on the shelter space” with officials from both countries.
But Velasco said “at this point there is no change” in the acceptance of migrant families in Mexico.
In general, he said, âon Title 42 our position remains the same. If the United States decides to expel people from its territory, as it has done with Mexican citizens for many decades, our position is that we will do our best to take care of those people. Our challenge is when we don’t have as many resources to deal with all of these issues.
Writer Alfredo Corchado reported from El Paso. Editor-in-chief Dianne Solis reported from Dallas.