A federal judge has issued a temporary Just Fuck Right Outta Here With That Shit order against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for ordering state troopers last week to start pulling over cars they think might be carrying migrants "who pose a risk of carrying COVID-19." Abbott issued the executive order last week to rile up his fellow racists so they'll elect him president in 2024, although his official excuse was that something had to be done about the outbreak of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in Texas. CNN put it far too generously here:
In his news release announcing the order, Abbott claimed that the rise in Covid cases in Texas is connected to the "dramatic rise in unlawful border crossings." It is true that Texas has seen some of the highest Covid case increases in the country, but the role that border crossings have played in that surge is uncertain, at best. Instead, public health officials have blamed Texas' recent rise in cases on the state's lower vaccination rates.
Sure, the state has low vaccination rates, but don't forget Abbott has also made it against the law for towns and schools to require masks to stop the spread of an airborne contagious disease!
Abbott's fearmongering is just more of the same xenophobic bullshit that's been an American tradition since the 19th century, when nativists stoked fears about dirty Irish and Italian immigrants bringing their European plagues to America, not to mention all that Popery.
In mere reality, hospitalizations in parts of the state now rival rates seen during the winter surge, with virtually all the new cases occurring among unvaccinated people. Abbott has refused to issue any statewide mask orders in response to the outbreak, and has continued his previous ban on allowing communities to put their own mask mandates in place. He also announced that an existing ban on schools requiring masks will remain in place for the upcoming school year.
Instead, Abbott blamed immigrants, which does very little to protect public health but is always popular with racists.
Abbott's executive order, the Texas Tribune explains, directed
Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to reroute civilian vehicles back to their origin point or a port of entry, or seize the vehicles, if police suspect the driver is transporting migrants who are infected with the virus.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick took to Fox News last week to sell the order, and Fox obligingly provided a chyron reading "COVID-POSITIVE MIGRANTS ENTERING BORDER TOWNS" while Patrick warned America Joe Biden is letting America be "invaded." He also explained that highly profitable American media corporations are "Marxist."
This rhetoric from Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is so over the top https://t.co/9wIMlQeH26— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar)1627568987.0
It's a disgrace to this county that he's allowing us to be invaded, and this administration — the Marxist Street media, I don't call it the main street media [sic] anymore, it's the Marxist Street media, Bill — says nothing about it. If it weren't for Fox, America would know very little of what's going on.
Clearly, a very important public health measure.
The executive order was so blatantly bad, both in terms of public health and civil rights, that the day after Abbott issued it last Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland sent Abbott a letter warning that if Abbott didn't rescind the "dangerous and unlawful" policy, Texas would get sued. Abbott did nothing, so on Friday, the Justice Department filed suit against Texas.
The Department of Justice said in the lawsuit that Abbott's order will contribute to the spread of COVID-19 and it will disrupt immigration officials' network of contractors and non government organizations that help host recently arrived migrants as their legal cases are pending.
"In our constitutional system, a State has no right to regulate the federal government's operations," the DOJ argued in a motion asking the judge to block Abbott's order, adding "this restriction on the transportation of noncitizens would severely disrupt federal immigration operations."
US District Judge Kathleen Cardone wasn't all that convinced that sending State Troopers after brown people in cars was a particularly legal approach to the pandemic, either. Yesterday, Cardone issued a temporary restraining order to prevent Texas from enforcing Abbott's executive order while the DOJ case proceeds. Cardone wrote that the DOJ was likely to prevail in its argument that Abbott's order "causes irreparable injury to the United States and to individuals the United States is charged with protecting" while in custody. She will rule later on whether the order is constitutional; advocates for immigrants have argued that the order is an invitation to state troopers to racially profile motorists, because it very clearly is.
Fernando García, executive director for the Border Network for Human Rights, applauded the decision. He called the state's defense of the order hypocritical in the first place, given Abbott's ban on COVID-19 prevention measures like mask mandates in schools.
"It was very clear that the state was advancing an anti-immigrant agenda rather than concerns for border residents," he said.
Rightwing media have been trying to stir up panic that undocumented migrants claiming asylum are being released at a bus station in McAllen, Texas, after initial processing. "From there, other private entities – including religious organizations contracting with the federal government – have arranged transport for the immigrants." Abbott's order would only allow migrants to be transported by federal, state, or local law enforcement.
The DOJ argued that Abbott's order would play havoc with routine transportation of migrants facing immigration hearings after being apprehended at the border, noting that they're typically moved between facilities by contractors, not by law enforcement officers. Also, too, it would be bad for kids:
Brian Hastings, chief patrol agent for U.S. Border Patrol, said in court filings that if the executive order prevents the transport of migrant children and families, it would cause them to be held for longer periods within Border Patrol facilities, violating federal rules. It would also crowd the facilities and worsen the chance of COVID-19 spread, he said.
"In our constitutional system, a State has no right to regulate the federal government's operations," the DOJ argued in a motion asking the judge to block Abbott's order.
In a statement following the ruling, Abbott said Texas isn't enforcing no immigration laws, and insisted that his own "duty remains to the people of Texas, and I have no intention of abdicating that," so brace yourselves for more pandering to rightwing paranoia and racism in the name of fighting the pandemic that Abbott is otherwise ignoring.
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