SAN ANTONIO – Governor Greg Abbott is facing criticism after his latest executive order, which allows DPS troopers to pull over vehicles suspected of transporting migrants.
While the governor said this will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in our communities, those who oppose the order said it will lead to racial profiling.
“Governor Abbott does not have the power to unilaterally set immigration policy. State police and local police do not have the power to unilaterally pull over vehicles to unilaterally detain people because of their immigration status,” said Kate Huddleston, attorney for ACLU of Texas.
The governor ordered state troopers Wednesday to stop vehicles whose drivers are transporting migrants who might pose a risk of carrying COVID-19.
The order allows troopers to reroute those vehicles back to their point of origin or the nearest port of entry. It also gives DPS the authority to impound a vehicle that violates the executive order.
Huddleston said she already sees problems with this order.
“This is going to just cause racial profiling and overpolicing along the border and lead to really serious constitutional problems,” said Huddleston.
Dani Marrero Hi, with the nonprofit La Union Del Pueblo Entero, voiced similar concerns.
“This will absolutely lead to racial profiling, and if you think of an area like the Rio Grande Valley where people already live in fear of how overpoliced regions are here,” said Marrero Hi.
Sister Norma Pimentel, the executive director for Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, said the governor’s executive order will have a major impact on how they help migrants.
“We won’t be able to take people to the hospital. We’re not going to be able to take people to hotels if they are COVID positive,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel said they work to keep the COVID risk low by testing migrants before they arrive at their center.
“We quickly separated those that were positive to take care of them by sending them to hotels that were made available for us,” Pimentel said.
She said when they test negative, they move forward to their destination and vaccines are offered.
“I’m hopeful that his actions are reconsidered and looked at how to make sure we can continue a process that’s safe for the immigrants and for the community,” Pimentel said.
The Texas Department of Public Safety released this statement in relation to Abbott’s order:
“The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is committed to securing our border under the direction of Governor Greg Abbott and through the Executive Orders applicable to DPS. While the department does not discuss operational specifics, we will continue to monitor the situation at the border to make real-time decisions and adjust operations as necessary.”