New order in Texas targets immigrants 2:42
The Republican Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, launched his war against the immigration policies of the Biden administration with a decree Wednesday aimed at transporting migrants released from custody.
The decree is framed as a public health measure to address COVID-19, which is on the rise in Texas amid Abbott's opposition to new mask-wearing mandates or vaccination requirements.
It has also sparked the threat of a lawsuit from US Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Here's what you need to know about the decree, its potential impact on the ground, and the possibility of a legal battle:
What does the decree say?
Abbott's decree says it is ordering Texas state police, under the Department of Public Safety, to stop any vehicle if there is "reasonable suspicion" that it is transporting certain migrants who illegally crossed the US-Mexico border. and were released from the custody of US Customs and Border Protection.
If state officials confirm that the transported migrants fit into that category, the agency must divert the vehicle to its point of origin, according to the decree.
The decree also gives state police officers the authority to impound vehicles used to transport the migrants in question.
Why did Abbott issue it?
In its press release announcing the decree, Abbott stated that the increase in covid cases in Texas is related to the "dramatic increase in illegal border crossings."
It is true that Texas has seen some of the highest increases in covid cases in the country, but the role that border crossings have played in that increase is uncertain at best.
Instead, public health officials have blamed the recent spike in Texas cases on the state's lower vaccination rates.
Critics of Abbott say covid's justification for migrant transport is hypocritical, as it has vehemently opposed other covid public health policies, including the Biden administration's effort to fund testing for released immigrants. of custody.
Texas Governor Wants To Become Dictator, Says Democratic Rep
What is well established is that Abbott has been on the warpath against Biden's key immigration policies, including the administration's willingness to release border crossers into the United States who have been detained by federal immigration officials.
A bus station in McAllen has become a hot spot in the tension between Texas Republicans and the Biden administration. Once the captured immigrants who crossed the border illegally have been processed by federal authorities, Customs and Border Protection officials have dropped them off at the station. From there, other private entities, including religious organizations that have contracts with the federal government, have organized transportation for the immigrants. Abbott's decree exempts federal, state or local authorities from their prohibition of transporting the migrants in question.
"The result would be to strand a lot of undocumented immigrants in bus stations," said Stephen Vladeck, a CNN contributor and law professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
"Abbott is not proposing that the state retain them. Abbott cannot force the federal government to retain them. Therefore, it will only make it more difficult for the federal government to enforce the policy decisions it has made."
But the Biden administration has not taken all of these steps inactively, and Wednesday's decree quickly earned a warning from the administration, in the form of a letter from the Justice Department Thursday threatening a lawsuit.
Abbott responded that it would fight any efforts by the Justice Department.
White House Takes 'No Compromise' Approach to Addressing Root Causes of Migration
Is it legal?
Critics of Abbott are already questioning the legality of the decree.
There are two main areas where you could be vulnerable to a legal challenge, according to Vladeck.
It could be considered an illegal appropriation of a federal contract, as bus companies often transport migrants as part of the job for the federal government.
And it can also go against the Supreme Court decision in 2012 Arizona v.
In that case, the Obama administration challenged an Arizona law that empowered state officials to arrest people suspected of being undocumented immigrants.
The court upheld some aspects of the Arizona law, but struck down others that trampled on the "broad and undoubted power of the federal government over immigration."
Abbott's bill is "worse in some ways" than Arizona law, according to Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF, an immigrant rights organization, as the Arizona law at least wanted local authorities to do comply with immigration law as part of your duties to enforce state laws.
"This says to go out and affirmatively detain someone for an immigration-related problem," Saenz said.
Saenz also compared the decree to the legal problems that former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio had for attacking immigrants at traffic stops.
His police practices were declared unconstitutional for racial discrimination by a federal court, and he was later convicted of criminal contempt for refusing to stop them.
(Trump pardoned Arpaio in 2017).
By framing his decree around the authority of the Department of Public Safety to police motor vehicle traffic and by targeting the decree at vehicles suspected of leaving places where Customs and Border Protection releases immigrants, Abbott may have been looking for a margin of maneuver in those cases.
Informants denounce poor conditions at Fort Bliss facilities for migrant minors
Abbott's office did not respond to CNN inquiries about legal issues related to the decree.
How will it be enforced?
There are questions about how eager the Department of Public Safety will be to implement the decree.
Kathleen Campbell Walker, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, wondered how the department would train its officials to enforce it.
Walker was hired by El Paso County in 2006 to train their officers on how to comply with the law while making traffic stops with people they suspected of lacking immigration status.
"So I have to find out what factors I would be looking for to stop a vehicle because there appear to be people in it who would be subject to removal under Title 42," he said, referring to Trump-era policy linked to the coronavirus pandemic that allows border authorities to promptly expel migrants who are at the border.
"In my opinion, it creates a situation of potential impossibility of performance for law enforcement agencies."
In a statement, the Department of Public Safety was vague about its plan to enforce the decree.
"The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is committed to securing our border under the direction of Governor Greg Abbott and through the ordinances applicable to DPS," he said.
"While the department does not discuss operational details, we will continue to monitor the situation at the border to make real-time decisions and adjust operations as necessary."
Regardless, the decree places those who transport migrants, including entities that have a contract with the federal government, in an uncomfortable place, since it prohibits such transport and exposes those organizations to the possibility of their vehicles being seized.
ICE didn't send a detained immigrant who had a medical emergency and later died to the hospital, according to a watchdog
"There is a fear that humanitarian volunteers will have their vehicles impounded because they were taking a migrant to the bus station," Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy advisor to the American Immigration Council, told CNN.
The reaction to the decree by Greyhound, the bus company often used by private government partners to transport immigrants, was concise: "Greyhound complies with all federal and state laws," the company said in a statement.
CNN's Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.
CNN's Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.