The ACLU and ACLU of Texas said that because Abbott’s executive order threatens to stop and even confiscate the vehicles of civilian drivers and contractors, “it upends the system of onward travel for asylum seekers arriving at the border.”
“Under this order, shelters can no longer pick up asylum seekers or take them to get food, attend court hearings, or see doctors,” groups said. “The vast majority of migrants leave the border by bus, and are unable to join family members in other parts of Texas and other states.” Texas Fair Defense Project said that some families released by border officials had simply been dumped off at a gas station. “Pregnant people, children, and others were stranded with no place to go.”
“And Texans now face a harsh regime of arbitrary arrests by state officers, who are empowered to stop and question a driver they suspect of transporting asylum seekers, and to seize their vehicles or force them to drive to the border,” the ACLU and ACLU of Texas continued.
Organizations and individuals represented in the lawsuit are Angry Tías & Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley, humanitarian volunteer Jennifer Harbury, FIEL Houston, and Annunciation House, one of the largest migrant shelters in the nation. Director Ruben Garcia said that “[o]ur shelters are places of temporary hospitality for asylum seekers who are traveling on to their ultimate destination, frequently after long and difficult journeys to reach El Paso. If we cannot help people reach their onward destinations, we will have to close our doors.”
The lawsuit states that Angry Tías funds more than two dozen trips per month. “Additionally, Angry Tías members drive recently arrived asylum seekers, including those recently released from federal immigration custody, in the Rio Grande Valley to medical appointments, bus stations, and airports.” Harbury hosts newly arrived families in her home, additionally transporting them to “medical visits, legal appointments, ICE check-ins, stores, and religious and leisure activities,” the suit continued. All of this good work is being directly hampered by Abbott.
“Governor Abbott’s executive order is blatantly unconstitutional and threatens to turn Texas into a ‘show me your papers’ state,” ACLU of Texas attorney Kate Huddleston said. “The order creates the perfect storm for racial profiling by allowing state troopers to view any group of people as ‘certain immigrants’ violating the order. It will lead to unlawful detention, vehicle seizure, and the forced ‘rerouting’ of vehicles to the Texas–Mexico border. This is yet another assault on Texans’ civil rights by the governor and an effort to scapegoat immigrants in the state.”
A George W. Bush-appointed federal judge this week temporarily blocked Abbott’s order, ruling that it causes “irreparable injury to the United States and to individuals the United States is charged with protecting, jeopardizing the health and safety of noncitizens in federal custody, risking the safety of federal law enforcement personnel and their families, and exacerbating the spread of COVID-19.” The hold is on effect until Aug. 13, when parties return to court. Greg Abbott’s hold needs to be permanent.
“Simply put, Governor Abbott’s executive order prevents us from doing what we do—serving migrants and refugees in our vibrant community,” Garcia continued. “Our beloved fellow Tía Susan Law recently passed away,” Angry Tías said. “It is fitting that we file this lawsuit today to fulfill our mission of dignity and justice for asylum seekers. In doing so, we honor Susan’s life and courageous work as part of the Tías.”