El Paso County’s two-week business shutdown ‘illegal and harmful,’ Texas governor says

Border Report

Greg Abbot's condemnation of non-essential business closure due to COVID-19 spike follows state AG Paxton's petition for injunction

Gov. Greg Abbott (KXAN Photo)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso County’s two-week shutdown of non-essential businesses is illegal and harmful to the economy, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.

Further, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego failed to enforce COVID-19 protocols — which are effective in slowing the spread of the virus, but only if enforced, the governor said in a statement Tuesday.

“The county judge made clear that he had not been enforcing existing protocols allowed under law despite the fact that these protocols are effective strategies to contain COVID-19 while allowing businesses to safely open,” Abbott said. “He failed to do his job and is now illegally shutting down entire businesses, which will cause further harm to El Pasoans who are already suffering economically due to the pandemic.”

The governor’s statement came on the heels of state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s motion for a temporary injunction against Samaniego’s order.

“Judge Samaniego has no authority to flout Gov. Abbott’s executive orders by shutting down businesses in El Paso County,” said Paxton said. “I am optimistic that the district court will recognize the unlawfulness of this action and quickly stop these orders from further oppressing the El Paso community.”

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Wednesday. Read a copy of the filing here.

Border Report reached out to Samaniego for comment and is awaiting a response.

The county judge last Thursday ordered a two-week shutdown of non-essential businesses in response to more than a week of record-setting coronavirus cases in El Paso.

Businesses ordered closed include tattoo parlors, hair and nail salons, gyms, massage businesses and in-person dining at restaurants.

The order immediately drew opposition from El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, who questioned the legality of going against guidance from the state to balance public health and keeping businesses from going broke.

The El Paso Police Department said its officers wouldn’t enforce the order, but Samaniego said the Sheriff’s Office and constables would. Later, the County Attorney’s Office sided with Samaniego and opined the order was lawful.

Border Report reached out to Samaniego for comment and is awaiting a response. This is a developing story.

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