Politics & Policy

Governor Abbott Bans Ground Transportation of Migrants Who Pose COVID Risk in Texas

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at the National Rifle Association convention in Dallas, Texas, May 4, 2018. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order Wednesday restricting ground transportation of undocumented migrants who pose a risk of transmitting COVID in the Texas interior.

The directive authorizes the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to stop any vehicle suspected of carrying migrants that may be infected with the virus and to return them back to a point of origin or a port of entry, according to a statement from the governor’s office. The DPS also reserves the right to seize and take custody of any vehicle that does not comply with the rule.

The prohibition on transporting migrants who have been detained by Customs and Border Patrol for entering the United States illegally applies to any individual in Texas who may attempt it, other than a federal, state, or local law-enforcement official.

“The dramatic rise in unlawful border crossings has also led to a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases among unlawful migrants who have made their way into our state, and we must do more to protect Texans from this virus and reduce the burden on our communities,” Governor Abbott said. “This Executive Order will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in our communities.”

Abbott issued the decision in response to the surge of migrants that have unlawfully crossed the southern border in recent months, many of whom have tested positive for COVID. In the order, Abbott argues that the Biden administration’s refusal to enforce Title 42, a Trump-era measure coined the “turn back” policy that deported migrants who could be contagious with the disease, and failure to enforce the country’s immigration laws have jeopardized and could have a “potentially catastrophic effect” on public health efforts in Texas.

Abbott referenced the busloads of migrants being dropped off at locations across his state, reported by multiple outlets, that have been exposing Texas communities to the pathogen as evidence of justification for his executive action.

Many states and their medical systems are grappling with a new virus wave driven by the highly-transmissible delta variant, which accounts for the majority of new confirmed COVID cases, according to the CDC.

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