Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday issued an executive order instructing the National Guard to assist state law enforcement officers in stopping civilian drivers and contractors who they believe are transporting migrants who have recently crossed into the U.S. If drivers refuse to cooperate, Abbott’s executive order instructs that officers may seize their vehicle.
Abbott’s order uses the pandemic as pretext, but data has indicated that the vaccination rate among migrants newly entering the U.S. through Texas is 90%. Among state residents, it’s just 43.4% as of July 26. Abbott’s order has instead left stakeholders, including city officials, in confusion about how it’ll be carried out, raised concerns of racial profiling, and been slammed by experts as “unconstitutional and fascist.”
“Words cannot describe how horrifyingly illegal @GregAbbott_TX's new executive order is,” American Immigration Council Policy Counsel Aaron Reichlin-Melnick wrote in a Twitter thread responding to Abbott’s order. “He is ordering Texas state police to seize the vehicles of any private citizens or contractors who transport migrants, something which is 100% legal. This is dangerous, dangerous stuff.” Reichlin-Melnick points out a claim in Abbott’s order that twists figures to indicate a massive number of migrants testing positive for COVID-19. While Abbott’s order claims a “900% increase” in migrants who’ve recently tested positive, Reichlin-Melnick says the number is actually 135 people.
”Abbott's lies about migrants can't stand,” he continues. “Let me once again tell you what the actual data shows! Migrants make up less than 1% of overall positive tests. Migrants who test positive nearly all quarantine. 90% of migrants are voluntarily getting vaccinated.”
Advocacy leaders in the state warn that this policy represents an open invitation to racially profile Texans who have already long been dealing with existing immigration checkpoints within the borderlands. “For an area like the Rio Grande Valley, where I think a lot of people already experienced kind of racial profiling from cops, and we have local law enforcement collaborating with Border Patrol, this is just gonna have a catastrophic impact,” La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) Advocacy Director Dani Marrero Hi told The Texas Tribune.
“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,” American Civil Liberties Union of Texas staff attorney Kate Huddleston said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “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 notes Abbott’s “fiat continues a long, racist history of placing blame for the spread of disease onto immigrants and communities at the border.” It was just the other week that Sen. Ted Cruz pulled the same shit, falsely pinning the rise in cases in South Texas on migrants. Not on people who, say, traveled internationally to sip an icy drink at a resort with electricity and running water. “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,” Huddleston continued.
Abbott has also begun arresting a number of migrants under the so-called emergency declaration that was actually rejected by a number of Rio Grande Valley counties for being completely unfounded. “Different day, same hateful and cynical scapegoating,” former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro tweeted. “@GregAbbott_TX is just priming his base to falsely blame undocumented immigrants for the surge in Covid we’re seeing in Texas instead of rightly blaming him for his craven, anti-science Covid response.”
How long is Greg Abbott going to continue exacerbating a public health crisis and blaming immigrants and recent asylum-seekers for it? For as long as he can get away with it—and it is terrifying to think what policy he may consider next. “Governor Abbott enshrines unscientific xenophobia into executive order, pushing the false narrative that migrants are spreading COVID, and appears to ban private citizens or contractors from transporting migrants, which is *flagrantly* illegal and unconstitutional,” Reichlin-Melnick said.