The state of Texas and its governor have come under fire from the US Justice Department over the proposed new immigration order. Governor Greg Abbot’s actions are said to be interfering with the federal government’s ability to release and transport migrants legally, and it violates intergovernmental immunity issued to foreign nationals. From an onlooker’s perspective, the governor’s immigration order was implemented without consultation with other sister departments. It looks like he did not consider the consequences of his actions in relation to the country’s immigration policies. Hence, the US Justice Department felt the necessity to launch a lawsuit against the state’s suggested immigration order on Friday.
Texas and governor Greg Abbot are being sued for pursuing a state executive order on Wednesday which aims to restrict the travelling of all undocumented migrants who have the potential of transmitting covid-19. Normally, such an order can be regarded as favourable, especially with the current global crisis that is spread by travellers who go to other territories. Some countries have banned intercity travel in order to contain the continuous transmission of coronavirus. The United States of America is fighting the Delta variant, and last week, the health secretary declared a public health emergency after cases had surged due to this variant. It is from this background that Governor Abbot sought to protect his citizens from any carriers of covid who could inhabit his state.
However, his good intentions cannot be backed up by the law or constitutionally defended, so the US Justice Department made motions to block his state executive order of restricting the immigrants from travelling. The complaint filed with the US District Court for the Western District of Texas in El Paso notes, “No State may obstruct the Federal Government in the discharge of its constitutional responsibilities”. From this complaint, it is clear that Texas and its governor over-extended their powers in pursuing issues that are bigger than their authority. The Justice Department is explicitly calling out the governor for tapping in too much by attempting to undermine the federal government’s regulations lawfully put in place.
Abbot’s actions upset the Justice Department and attracted the attention of Attorney General Merrick Garland. On Thursday, the Attorney General posed how he intended on using all “legal remedies” available if governor Abbot did not retract his executive order. Garland addressed Abbot in a letter where described the ruling as illegal and unconditional. The letter noted, “Among other harms, the Order would exacerbate and prolong overcrowding in facilities and shelters and obstruct the federal government’s arrangements with state, local, and non-government partners to ensure that released individuals are transported for appropriate COVID-19 testing to address public health concerns.”
On the legal side of things, it seems like Abbot has awakened an intense sting of the law he violated through his decisions. His order is viewed as a limitation to the ground transportation of illegal migrants who were recently released from US Border Patrol Custody, fearing that they are travellers “who pose a risk of carrying Covid-19 into Texas communities.”
It also authorizes the Texas Department of Public Safety to block the passage of entry for any vehicles suspected of ferrying these immigrants while alluding to an “ongoing and imminent” threat of many people crossing the Texas-Mexico border. In declaring his order, Abbot presented it as a public health order seeking to address the covid-19 cases surging in his state with about 5 000 hospitalizations in Texas on 27 July [Source]. But his previous utterances where he was opposing the legal requirements of wearing masks and vaccinations are parallel to his concerns of public health.
A statement released through his Twitter handle shows that the Texas governor is unapologetic in his stance.
The Biden admin. fundamentally misunderstands what’s happening at the border.
They are jeopardizing the health & safety of Texans on a daily basis by refusing to follow the law.
I will take every step consistent with the law to fulfill my duty to protect all Texans. pic.twitter.com/CHn4aN17iD
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) July 30, 2021
The US Customs and Border Protection did reveal a surge in migrants at the US-Mexico border with over 1,1 million apprehensions recorded [Source]. The US always experiences floods of migrants from all over the world looking for asylum or greener pastures. This has led to a diverse population that puts pressure on medical care and public transportation services. Abbot made stern moves of jailing immigrants at the US-Mexico border and building a new border fence. Political analysts suggested that as a Republican, Abbot is following former US President Donald Trump’s attitude towards migrants, especially those coming from Mexico. Trump did not have any kind words for migrants, and he blamed them for all the misfortunes to befall the “greatest nation”. He is blaming the government for opening gates to the covid transmitters and jeopardizing the health of US citizens. If Trump’s ideologies influence abbot, both the Justice Department and Garland will face serious resistance from Abbot and Texans. Governor Abbot’s response to Garland’s letter concluded by saying that “I will take every available step consistent with the law to fulfil my duty to protect the health and safety of all Texans.”
In a typical setup, the law will have to prevail, which means Abbot has to rescind his order because it violates the constitution. But since he argues that his stance protects the Texans and the general populace from a deadly global pandemic, the governor is very determined to twist the law to his side. Due to this, the US courts will witness a heated confrontation between a “law-abiding” Biden administration and a “loving” governor claiming to be shielding his citizens from the jaws of covid-19.