A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked an order from Texas’ governor prohibiting anyone except law enforcement from driving undocumented immigrants anywhere, and instructing state police to pull over people they thought were violating the rule.
The rule, issued by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last Wednesday, would have allowed Texas state troopers to pull over vehicles that they believed were carrying undocumented people, which critics said would lead to racial profiling and more crowding of border facilities and shelters.
In a two-page ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone, a George W. Bush appointee, granted the federal government’s request for a temporary restraining order against Abbott’s new rule.
“The Executive 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,” Cardone wrote.
The Department of Justice sued Abbott on Friday, a day after Attorney General Merrick Garland warned that “Texas cannot regulate the operations of private parties performing tasks on behalf of the United States.”
Non-law-enforcement entities, such as volunteer groups and other non-profits, often help drive undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers to court dates, hotels, or relatives’ homes. The federal government also relies on contractors to transport people arrested at the border between federal detention centers.
Abbott and lawyers for the state have framed the order as a public health measure, even though Abbott has prohibited mask mandates in the state and Texas is lagging behind the national vaccination average.
“Some level of inconvenience for potentially COVID-infected illegal aliens is an unavoidable result of protecting public health during a pandemic,” Patrick Sweeten, a lawyer for the state, wrote Monday in response to the federal lawsuit.
The Justice Department had also requested a preliminary injunction against the order, which Cardone said she would consider in a hearing on Aug. 13.