A federal judge in El Paso has blocked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order restricting migrant travel in the state.
The U.S. Department of Justice asked for a temporary restraining order to keep Abbott from using state troopers to stop any vehicle, including those driven by contractors hired by the federal government to transport migrants already in U.S. custody. District Judge Kathleen Cardone granted the request on Tuesday.
During a prior hearing, the Justice Department attorney said Texas is trying to create its own immigration regime, and that would lead to chaos on the border by interfering with federal immigration law. If Abbott’s order had not been blocked, Texas state troopers would have been able to halt not only the federal contractors, but they would have also been able to stop transportation provided by nonprofit service groups helping migrants with federal approval to travel after being released.
Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House in El Paso, which provides temporary shelter for migrants and refugees, says he his “very grateful” for the judge Cardone’s decision.
“It would have very seriously affected the work of Annunciation House. I would daresay even to the point of stopping our operation, and I think all NGOs across the border were wrestling with the order,” he said.
Attorneys for the state of Texas argued that the governor’s executive order is about COVID-19 health concerns and not immigration. But when pressed on that issue, Texas attorneys could not provide clear statistics to back that risk-to-health claim. The temporary restraining order is in effect until Aug. 13 and can be extended by the judge.