A federal judge has blocked an executive order that Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas issued seeking to ban private individuals and groups from transporting immigrants who illegally crossed the border with Mexico.
In a ruling on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Cardone granted the Justice Department’s request for a temporary restraining order to prevent Abbott’s order from taking effect.
In her two-page order, Cardone said the Justice Department was entitled to the ruling because it was “likely to prevail” on its arguments that Abbott’s directive unconstitutionally intrudes on powers reserved to the federal government.
Abbott’s order from last week appears invalid because “it conflicts with, and poses an obstacle to, federal immigration law; and … it directly regulates the federal government’s operations,” wrote Cardone, an El Paso-based appointee of former President George W. Bush.
“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,” the judge added.
On Friday, the Justice Department filed suit against Texas and Abbott over the order, one day after Attorney General Merrick Garland sent the governor a letter arguing that the measure was legally flawed. Cardone held a hearing on Monday on the federal government’s request for a temporary restraining order.
Appearing on Fox News shortly after the judge ruled, Abbott stressed that the state would have another chance to make its case that the order he issued is both lawful and wise.
“We will have a full hearing in the coming weeks where we will get to put on the evidence about how the Biden administration is exposing Texans to thousands of migrants who are bringing Covid-19 into the United States of America,” Abbott said. “I hope and believe that upon a full hearing of this matter, we will be able to present the evidence that what I am doing is the thing that governors are empowered to do, and that is to keep the people of their state safe while at the same time holding the Biden administration accountable to follow the laws, the immigration laws passed by the United States Congress.”
Lawyers for Abbott said previously that the order had not yet gone into effect because the Texas Department of Public Safety had not yet developed policy guidance about how to implement it. Justice Department attorneys said it threatened to cause major disruption to U.S. government operations by causing contractors, grantees, nongovernmental organizations and volunteers to refuse to assist in transporting immigrants, including those in need of screening or care for coronavirus infection.
The order Cardone issued on Tuesday will remain in effect until Aug. 13 unless extended. She set a hearing for that day on the federal government’s request for a longer-term preliminary injunction against Abbott’s directive.
Kelly Hooper contributed to this report.