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Security Brief: NORTHCOM Week of October 11, 2021

Week of Monday, October 11, 2021 | Issue 33

Dyuti Pandya, Tiffany Dove, NORTHCOM Team


Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott[1]


Date: October 11, 2021

Location: Texas, United States

Parties involved: US Federal Government; Texas State Government; Texas Governor Greg Abbott; US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The event: On October 11, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order barring all entities in the state, including private businesses, from enforcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates to those who object due to reasons of personal conscience, religious beliefs, or medical grounds.[2] Abbott announced that he has added the issue of banning the vaccine mandate under the next special session’s agenda of the state’s legislature. The order will be rescinded once the legislation is passed.[3]

The implications:

  • Governor Abbott’s executive order is likely to exacerbate the divide between the Republican and Democratic parties over different responses for adopting the mandate policy across states.

  • The move goes against the Biden administration’s calls for employers to order their workers to be vaccinated, and will likely pose a threat to the workers of big tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, which have extremely large bases in the state. Workers who refuse to be vaccinated may likely lose their jobs due to the federal vaccine mandate.

  • The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate will likely override the Texas executive order due to the supremacy clause under the US constitution that prohibits state laws to interfere with valid federal laws. This will likely result in big tech companies not following Abbott's executive order by enforcing the federal vaccine mandate on their employees. Due to the contradictory orders, many employees will likely refuse to comply with the federal vaccine mandate, likely engaging in protests and legal action against the employers of the big tech companies.

  • The legality of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for private companies will likely be challenged based on grounds of violation of personal liberty and overstepping of Occupational Safety and Health administration’s (OSHA) congressional mandate. OSHA will very likely be required by President Biden to demonstrate that there is a grave danger to the State if workers remain unvaccinated, and that vaccination will be necessary to protect workers from the ongoing threats of the pandemic. Based on how the court interprets and gives the final order, it is likely that further tensions between the state and federal governments will be created. As the Biden administration's federal rules on contractors and Abbott’s executive order have not fully gone into effect, legal conflicts between them are very likely. Groups, including state workers and companies, may likely reject the federal vaccine mandate to uphold their freedom of choice. Their move will almost certainly be backed by other Republican states due to alleged safety concerns with the vaccines and general distrust in the current government.

Date: October 12, 2021

Location: United States

Parties involved: US Department of Homeland Security (DHS); US Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas; US Federal Government; US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents

The event: On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, the Biden administration of the US announced that the US Immigration authorities will no longer implement mass arrests of illegal immigrants at US worksites, and instead focus on holding exploitative employers liable. Alejandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of Homeland Security, endorsed the ICE’s renewed focus, stating that “mass worksite operations” are not successful at preventing the exploitation of illegal immigrants, and often result in workers’ lack of reporting on labor law infringement.[4] Mayorkas announced his intention of investigating accusations of labor trafficking in addition to exploitative employers. Immigration agencies will now have 60 days to devise new policies that create an environment more suitable for reporting labor law concerns. Mayorkas’ memo instructed DHS officials to refrain from placing exploited labor victims through deportation whilst considering granting them temporary legal status.[5]

The implications:

  • The cessation of mass arrests and innovation of new policies will almost certainly cause a large influx of both true and false labor law allegations due to those trying to manipulate the new system to avoid immigration enforcement. This large influx of reports is very likely to increase the strain on the DHS, which is already functioning at maximum operational capacity in relation to the issue of illegal immigrants. The US Department of Labor will likely be put under considerable strain due to the likelihood of increased labor allegations. Implementation will likely be difficult as any additional allegations will need to be thoroughly investigated.

  • These new policy implementations will likely give migrants greater incentive to immigrate to the US as it is likely that they have greater potential for work in the US than in their countries of origin. This work being protected and supported by the US government likely increases motivation to immigrate to the US. It is very likely a future influx will lead to greater humanitarian and public health crises at the US southern border, not only due to COVID-19, but also the resurgence of mostly eradicated diseases that are still commonplace in countries south of the US. It is very likely that the influx of migrants could lead to a housing crisis as government immigration facilities become overwhelmed.

  • US public dissatisfaction may likely increase due to feelings of insecurity derived from perceived government support for the employment of undocumented immigrants. Lack of public support for migrant integration into the US would likely lead to migrant isolation and social division. This would very likely create discrimination and increased hate crimes towards migrants, especially from domestic violent extremists opposed to migrant integration.

  • The DHS policy will likely decrease the effectiveness of efforts to abolish child exploitation and human trafficking, as criminals may increasingly seek to exploit vulnerable migrants. Efforts to combat these issues will likely contribute to the pressure on the DHS system and its resources. The likely increase in child exploitation and human trafficking would almost certainly elevate crime and drug trafficking.

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________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1]Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas.” by Jay Godwin licensed under Public Domain

[2] Texas Governor Greg Abbott bans vaccine mandates by "any entity" in the state, CBS News, October 2021, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/covid-vaccine-mandate-texas-ban/

[3] Republican Texas governor Greg Abbott bars all COVID-19 vaccine mandates in state, calls Biden's policies 'bullying', ABC News, October 2021, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-12/texas-bars-covid-vaccine-mandates/100531834

[4] Biden administration ends mass immigration arrests at work sites, CBS News, October 2021, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/immigration-biden-administration-ends-mass-arrests-work-sites/

[5] Biden Administration Orders ICE To End Mass Workplace Raids, Forbes, October 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/joewalsh/2021/10/12/biden-administration-orders-ice-to-end-mass-workplace-raids/?sh=44905072251f

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