AUSTIN, Texas – The ACLU of Texas has blasted Gov. Greg Abbott over his decision to restrict the ground transportation of migrants released by the Department of Homeland Security.
Abbott said he was issuing an executive order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by such migrants.
But Kate Huddleston, attorney at the ACLU of Texas, noted that Abbott’s order also authorizes the Texas Department of Public Safety to pull over drivers they suspect of violating the order and to reroute or impound their vehicles.
“Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest efforts to make Texas an anti-immigrant police state are yet another unconstitutional assault on civil rights targeting border communities,” Huddleston said.
“The governor’s order will lead to racial profiling and over-policing — with state troopers pulling over cars and buses without lawful justification, profiling passengers, and questioning people about their immigration status.”
Huddleston added: “The fiat continues a long, racist history of placing blame for the spread of disease onto immigrants and communities at the border. There is no reason for the governor to halt travel in the state of Texas other than to terrorize these communities and distract from his own leadership failures.”
The Mexican American Legislative Caucus, representing Mexican American legislators at the state Capitol, also reacted to Abbott’s executive order.
“Governor Abbott continues to fail Texans in his response to COVID-19. He remains beholden to the extreme elements of the Trump Party, and as such, he is putting his political ambition over the public health of all Texans,” said state Rep. Rafael Anchía, MALC chairman.
“Blaming the current coronavirus surge on immigrants in his executive order, is a flagrant attempt to absolve his ineffective leadership that ultimately led to the unnecessary loss of life of our fellow Texans.”
Anchía added: “Governor Abbott is unwilling to take even simple steps to keep our kids safe as parents are dealing with gut-wrenching decisions to send their kids back to school next month. He is failing our state during this pivotal moment as he refuses to use his platform to encourage every Texan to get vaccinated.”
Abbott had a different viewpoint. He said the ground transportation of migrants poses a big risk – that COVID-19 would be carried into Texas communities. He said the executive order directs the Texas Department of Public Safety to stop any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion of violating the transportation ban and to reroute such vehicles back to their point of origin or a port of entry. Abbott said that with the executive order, DPS now has the authority to impound a vehicle that violates his order.
“The dramatic rise in unlawful border crossings has also led to a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases among unlawful migrants who have made their way into our state, and we must do more to protect Texans from this virus and reduce the burden on our communities,” Abbott said. “This executive order will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in our communities.”
Abbott’s order came after reports that a family of migrants were exhibiting signs of COVID-19 in a Whataburger in La Joya. The migrants had been dropped off at a nearby hotel by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. The charity’s respite center in McAllen has been at capacity in recent days. A spillover location for the migrants is Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mission.
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez says he is demanding answers and resources from the Biden administration regarding the rise of COVID-19 cases and release of migrants in South Texas.
“I am aware and deeply concerned by the rising COVID-19 cases and reports of migrants that have tested positive for the virus being released in South Texas,” Gonzalez said.
“Releasing COVID-19 positive migrants into the United States is entirely unacceptable and puts our community and our law enforcement at risk.”
Gonzalez added: “I am in contact with the Biden administration about additional resources to handle this recent influx and rise in cases and demanding answers as to why these individuals have been released into our communities. It’s imperative the Biden administration provide a safe, humane, and orderly process that protects our communities and those vulnerable to this deadly virus.”
On Tuesday, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez urged Abbott to lift restrictions on county judges to re-impose mask wearing in public. He also called on the Biden administration to stop releasing migrants into communities in the county.
“We have been doing well as a community in slowing the spread of this deadly virus,” Cortez said. “But ill-conceived policies by both the federal and state governments are beginning to have serious consequences on Hidalgo County. I call on federal immigration officials to stop releasing infected migrants into our community and I am further calling on Governor Abbott to return to Hidalgo County the safety tools he took away that would help us slow the spread of this disease.”
Cortez made his remarks after receiving multiple reports that the number of migrants being processed and released into local nonprofit agencies assisting them were now overwhelming these agencies.
Cortez said he is also learning of multiple reports of migrants infected with COVID-19 interacting in public as they cough and sneeze without observing safety protocols such as the use of facial coverings.
“We now face a potential crisis because of the federal policy of releasing infected migrants into our community, coupled with the state policy that prohibits us from implementing essential safety measures,” Cortez said. “This is unacceptable.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Kate Huddleston of ACLU Texas.
Editor’s Note: The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service is waiting to receive the views of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, who represents La Joya. We will post them as soon as we receive them.
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