Judge blocks Texas troopers from stopping migrant transports
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A federal judge on Tuesday prevented Texas from allowing state forces to stop vehicles carrying migrants on the grounds that they could spread COVID-19 as concerns and new cases rise along the US-Mexico border .
The restraining order from US District Judge Kathleen Cardone of El Paso is at least a short-term victory for the Biden administration, which warned that Republican Governor Greg Abbott's plan would create further problems given the high number of border crossings in Texas this summer . particularly in the Rio Grande Valley, which a US official described as the "epicenter of the current surge".
As a sign of the growing strain, local officials there who have rejected Abbott's tough immigration policies to detain frontier workers and build a new barrier declared a local disaster this week as COVID-19 cases escalate and capacity in migrant shelters is exhausted.
Cardone said Abbott's instruction would have "amplified the spread of COVID-19". She has scheduled another hearing for next week.
Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze said the ruling was "based on limited evidence" and her office was looking forward to bringing evidence to the court.
As in Texas, the Biden government has concerns about the much more contagious Delta variant as large numbers of non-nationals continue to arrive on the southern Texas border. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention renewed the emergency powers that allow federal authorities to deport families at the border for preventing the coronavirus from spreading.
However, in the Texas lawsuit, the Department of Justice accused Abbott of potentially worsening the spread of COVID-19 and said in court records that obstruction of the transfer of migrants would prolong the detention of unaccompanied children in "increasingly crowded" facilities.
Hidalgo County's judge Richard Cortez, a Democrat who is the top elected official in the Rio Grande Valley's largest county, said Tuesday that typically about 8% of migrants tested for COVID-19 were positive. He said the number is now 16% - roughly in line with Texas's overall positivity rate of 17%, according to state health data.
"It will not get better. It's just getting worse, "said Cortez, defending his local emergency command.
Critics have accused Abbott, who faces a third term in 2022, of attempting to shift the blame for the rapidly rising COVID-19 numbers in Texas on to migrants as it rejects calls to reinstate mask mandates and other pandemic restrictions. On Tuesday, Texas surpassed 7,000 hospitalized virus patients for the first time since February and reported more than 11,000 new cases.
Abbott had authorized the growing presence of state forces in Texas along the border last week to “stop any vehicle on suspicion” of transporting migrants. Soldiers could then divert vehicles back to their starting point or confiscate them. Civil rights groups and advocates of immigration have raised concerns that the policy could lead to racial profiling for soldiers.
Border crossings usually slow down during the stifling - and sometimes deadly - summer heat. However, US authorities announced Monday that they were likely to have taken in 19,000 unaccompanied children in July, surpassing the previous high of 18,877 in March. According to David Shahoulian, Assistant Secretary for Border and Immigration Policy at the Department of Homeland Security, it was 15,253 in June.
In total, US authorities stopped migrants at the border about 210,000 times in July, up from 188,829 in June and the highest level in more than 20 years. But the numbers aren't directly comparable because many repeatedly cross under a pandemic-induced ban called Title 42, named after a public health law of 1944.
The CDC said Monday that the ban would remain in place until its director "determines that the threat of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States by covered non-nationals no longer poses a serious public health hazard."
In this article:
48th Governor of Texas, since 2015
United States Federal Judge
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