A federal district judge in Texas temporarily blocked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott from implementing an executive order targeting the transport of migrants who are released from custody.
The order, issued last Wednesday, was framed as a public health measure to address Covid-19, which is surging in Texas amid Abbott’s opposition to new mask mandates or requirements for vaccines. The Justice Department sued two days later.
DOJ alleged the order — in which Abbott directed state troopers to stop vehicles suspected of carrying recently released migrants — violates the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which establishes that federal laws preempt state laws and regulations.
The lawsuit alleged that Abbott’s order jeopardizes the “safety of noncitizens in federal custody, risking the safety of federal law enforcement personnel and their families, and exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.” The department additionally filed an emergency request for a court order that would immediately block Abbott’s enforcement of the order.
Judge Kathleen Cardone, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, said Tuesday the federal government is “likely to prevail” on its claims that the order violates the Supremacy Clause and found that executive order causes “irreparable injury” to the US and to the individuals the US is charged with protecting.
The temporary restraining order will remain in effect until August 13.
Abbott’s office said in a statement that it looks forward to defending the order in court and argued it had been issued in an attempt to prevent “the spreading Covid-19 into Texas and protect the health and safety of Texans.”
Abbott’s order directed Texas’ Department of Public Safety to stop vehicles that, under “reasonable suspicion,” appear to be carrying migrants who have been released from custody after illegally crossing the border. It also gave the state officials the authority to reroute or even impound those vehicles once it is confirmed that they are carrying the migrants in question. Federal and state law enforcement are exempted under the order.
In its court filings, the Biden administration said that Abbott’s order would have “tremendous consequences” and could be “expected to cause confrontations between DPS and federal personnel, contractors, and partners moving noncitizens, an important immigration function.”
This story has been updated with additional details.