An El Paso federal judge extended her order blocking a Texas mandate preventing private vehicles from carrying illegal immigrants released from federal custody for another two weeks following a Friday hearing.
US District Judge Kathleen Cardone issued a temporary restraining order Aug. 3 to prevent Gov. Greg Abbott’s order that state troopers stop and, if necessary, impound vehicles suspected of carrying illegal immigrants from going into effect. Cardone’s initial order expired Friday, necessitating the hearing.
The Justice Department had sued to block the July 28 order, arguing that it violates the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause by both conflicting with federal immigration law and regulating federal operations.
Cardone ruled that the Biden administration was likely to prevail on both claims, and also found that the 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.”
During Friday’s hearing, DOJ attorney Brian Boynton argued that the order would lead to troopers “targeting people, profiling and harassing people,” echoing arguments from civil rights and immigration activists opposed to Abbott’s order.
Will Thompson, representing Abbott’s administration, argued that the order was necessary to counter a public health crisis, and argued that COVID-19 numbers were “skyrocketing” along the state’s border with Mexico due to the arrival of illegal immigrants who have tested positive for the virus.
“To my knowledge it’s not spiking in El Paso, and we’re certainly on the border,” said Cardone, according to local news website El Paso Matters.
The case was heard one day after Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced that Customs and Border Protection had stopped more than 212,000 illegal immigrants attempting to cross the border into the US — the most in any month since March 2000, when more than 220,000 illegal immigrants tried to enter the country.
During a news conference in Brownsville, Texas Thursday, Mayorkas denied that the migration surge is driving any increase in COVID-19 cases in the border region, claiming that “the rate of positivity is at or lower than the rates in our local border communities.”
There was no immediate response to Friday’s ruling from Abbott’s office.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has also sued Abbott over the order on behalf of nonprofits who provide humanitarian services to migrants. Cardone said she would decide in the next two weeks whether to consolidate that lawsuit with the one filed by the Justice Department.