In what world are mask mandates too draconian but COVID justifies massive law enforcement deployments and new detention camps for migrants? Oh yeah: Greg Abbott’s Texas

I was lookin’ for a job when I found this one.

Don’t need the work like you need the work done.

                                                       – Todd Snider

Given that he has forbidden local governments in Texas from requiring masks in public spaces, Gov. Abbott’s executive order telling Texas DPS troopers to arrest people suspected of being a) migrants and b) who could possibly be carrying COVID reeks of hypocrisy nearly as great as the constitutional crisis he has created. 

The Biden Administration has asked federal courts to intervene. Lets’ hope sanity prevails.

Grits has said before, I believe the 87th Texas Legislature featured the ascendance of a brand American fascism that had heretofore been constrained by business and libertarian factions in the Texas GOP. But 2020 saw Allen West win the state GOP chairmanship and immediately begin courting QAnon types in the party (“We Are The Storm”), giving voice to far right-wing populists to whom mainstream politicians in Texas had heretofore refused to pander.

Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick evince no such compunctions. With West now challenging the Governor in the primary, he has taken to using COVID as justification for draconian immigration stances that make no sense as either labor or public-health policy, but please the anti-immigrant fringe among his base to no end. 

All this is especially hypocritical because Texas elites courted illegal immigration for generations, preferring to have a large body of second-class citizens with fungible rights performing some of the most grueling and dangerous work in the state.

Shut down immigration, illegal or otherwise, and the result is severe labor shortages in industries that rely on those workers: agriculture in rural areas; construction and hospitality in the cities. We’ve heard Gov. Abbott and really the entire Republican message machine blaming these shortages on lazy workers and too-generous unemployment checks, but immigration policy is almost certainly the more direct cause. Labor shortages increasingly appear to be structural, and expanded immigration is one of the only solutions on the table. Maybe the only one. From the perspective of Texas Chamber of Commerce types who in past generations were considered “conservative,” the state is cutting off its economic nose to spite its slightly-more-brown face.

The other problem is all this is being done under the Governor’s “emergency” powers, which foolishly empower him to override any law or upend any legislative budget decision once he’s declared an “emergency” (as evinced by taking $250 million from the prison system for wall building). The Legislature has become nearly irrelevant in Texas (so it’s just as well the Democrats are gone, anyway, lest they contribute to any pretense of legitimacy). No matter what they do, the Governor can apparently turn around and do something else as soon as session ends, redirecting money and personnel however he sees fit.

The law enables him to essentially operate as a dictator, and Greg Abbott is beginning to do just that.