Abbott’s Executive Order is an Unconstitutional Attack on Humanitarian Organizations

Thursday, July 29, 2021


Today CGRS joined #WelcomeWithDignity campaign partners in condemning Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order GA-37 directing Department of Public Safety officials to stop any vehicle suspected of transporting migrants and return it to a port of entry. Governor Abbott’s executive order is based on shoddy science and racism. Leading public health officials have said time and time again that the United States can welcome people seeking asylum with science-based measures that will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission. 

“Governor Abbott’s order will endanger people seeking asylum, punish the communities who support them, and make all of us less safe,” said Kate Jastram, Policy and Advocacy Director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “The governor has justified this radical move by doubling down on racist tropes that paint immigrants as a unique public health threat. This twisted – and baseless – logic has been used by both the Trump and Biden administrations to expel people seeking asylum to danger for too long. Public health experts know better, as do services providers, faith communities, and volunteers who are ready to welcome people seeking safety in Texas.”

“Governor Abbott’s executive order is dangerous and unconstitutional,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, American Immigration Council, Policy Counsel. “Ordering state police to seize the vehicles of transportation providers and big-hearted Texans volunteering to help migrants is a recipe for disaster. This reckless order threatens to disrupt extensive coordination between DHS and local shelters to ensure that migrants do not get stuck in overcrowded Border Patrol cells.”

“Border communities have welcomed migrants for generations. The Frontera Welcome Coalition in El Paso has been actively planning for the end of restrictive policies like Title 42 so we can continue to honor this border tradition. Our planning is done out of a spirit of generosity and welcome, not fear. Case in point: in El Paso, COVID-safe transportation arrangements and volunteers are in place to support people who have been released from CBP custody at the ports of entry and help them get to shelters, airports and bus stations. Our community is stepping up to provide this service precisely because Customs and Border Protection will not do so. It’s wrong to criminalize services for those in need as Governor Abbott is doing with this order.” said Hannah Hollandbyrd, Policy Specialist at the Hope Border Institute.

“It is insulting to Texans like me that instead of tackling real and consequential issues, such as fixing the state’s electric grid, Governor Abbott is instead scapegoating migrants and directing Texas state police to engage in illegal racial profiling,” said Esther Sung, Legal Director for Justice Action Center.

"Our Catholic faith teaches us to see the inherent dignity and humanity in all people, especially immigrants. For years because the state has refused to do its duty, faith-based groups, especially Catholic Charities has stepped up and filled the gaps in services for immigrants. Gov. Abbot criminalizing these services is morally wrong," said Ronnate Asirwatham, Director, Government Relations NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice.

“We condemn Governor Abbott’s cruel, immoral, and devastating executive order. It is an affront to the faith community’s commitment to welcome the stranger and flies in the face of our willingness to care for the vulnerable,” said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Church World Service. “Scripture tells us , ‘Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.’ Governor Abbot’s decision violates Texan values of compassion and hospitality, robs people of faith from our moral call to provide humanitarian aid, and undermines public safety. We hope he will heed the call of Texan communities and reverse this harmful decision.”

“Governor Abbott’s dangerous executive order attacks the rights and endangers the lives of people seeking safety and those who work to welcome them,” said Denise Bell, Researcher for Refugee and Migrant Rights at Amnesty International USA.  “It raises the specter of racial profiling, targets community-based groups welcoming migrants and asylum-seekers, and further terrorizes people for asking for asylum, a legal right under U.S. law and a human right.  This executive order comes under the pretext of protecting public health, a shameful progeny of the public health quarantine, Title 42, used by both the Trump and Biden administrations to block and expel people seeking safety.  The perverse logic of weaponizing public health against people seeking safety is shameful, dangerous, and unlawful.”

“It is tragic but not surprising that a senior elected public official who has so brazenly dismissed best public health practices around this pandemic would draft a fear-mongering directive that is not only unlawful but without a convincing public health rationale,” said Eric Schwartz, President of Refugees International. “This is not how asylum seekers and those that help them should be treated.”

“By giving Texas’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) free rein to suddenly become deputized immigration officers and racially profile people is cruel, unconstitutional, and a stab in the back of every person working to welcome immigrants into this country,” said Jonathan Goldman, Executive Director of the Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice. “Not only will this order degrade the public’s faith in DPS, but this will ultimately cause more suffering and deaths by not guaranteeing protection for those seeking a new home in the US.”

“The governor’s “order” is another xenophobic, racist attempt to paint asylum seekers and migrants as disease threats, and a despicable effort to intimidate and punish faith-based and humanitarian groups that work with refugees and migrants. It is not only illegal and unconstitutional but also immoral.” Eleanor Acer, senior director for refugee protection at Human Rights First.