The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the ACLU announced Thursday they were suing Gov. Greg Abbott for an executive order he issued last week.
Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, the executive order prohibits the transportation of migrants and allows Texas Department of Public Safety officers to stop and impound vehicles that violate the order.
In response, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland sued the governor last week, arguing that the executive order disrupted the operations of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Shortly after, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against the executive order.
The ACLU is mounting a separate legal challenge focusing on how Abbot’s order harms border communities, asylum seekers, and all drivers in Texas.
In a statement, ACLU of Texas Attorney Kate Huddleston said the order was blatantly unconstitutional and threatened to turn Texas into a “show me your papers state.”
“The order creates the perfect storm for racial profiling by allowing state troopers to view any group of people as ‘certain immigrants’ violating the order,” Huddleston said. “It will lead to unlawful detention, vehicle seizure, and the forced ‘rerouting’ of vehicles to the Texas-Mexico border. This is yet another assault on Texans’ civil rights by the governor and an effort to scapegoat immigrants in the state.”
The civil rights legal advocacy group warns that Abbott’s order would give state officials unilateral authority to make guesses about complex immigration statuses that could lead to arbitrary detention, questioning, and fines.
“We are challenging this executive order because it is illegal and inhumane,” said Spencer Amdur, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The governor of Texas cannot veto federal decisions about who can live in this country. And state police cannot be stopping drivers and impounding cars they suspect of carrying asylum seekers. This is an unprecedented attack on the federal immigration system and it must be struck down.”
Migrant shelters that provide aid would also be unable to transport asylum seekers to court hearings or to the doctor’s office for medical attention. Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, one such El Paso-based organization that provides temporary shelter for migrants said they would have to close their doors.
“Simply put, Governor Abbott’s executive order prevents us from doing what we do — serving migrants and refugees in our vibrant community,” Garcia said.