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US Texas state troopers arrest thousands of migrants crossing the border. Critics call it unconstitutional.

22:10  29 september  2021
22:10  29 september  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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Ivan Nava and David Muñoz, friends from Guerrero, Mexico, crossed into the United States together in June without permission. They hoped to connect with relatives, find jobs and map out better lives for their families back in Mexico.

Instead, they sat in a Texas state prison for seven weeks, unclear as to the charges brought against them or what next awaited them.

They are two of thousands of migrants who have crossed into Texas from Mexico this year without proper documentation and were rounded up as part of Operation Lone Star, Gov. Greg Abbott’s initiative to use state troopers and National Guard soldiers to help bolster federal immigration enforcement.

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On Tuesday, a Texas district court judge dismissed the charges of criminal trespassing against Nava and Muñoz after prosecutors were unprepared to present probable cause in the case. Advocates hailed it as a major victory against Operation Lone Star, which they allege is unconstitutional and flouts federal laws. Supporters of the policy claim it’s Abbott’s right to stop undocumented migrants from streaming into Texas if the federal government fails at the task.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has authorized state troopers to assist U.S. Border Patrol in enforcing federal immigration laws. More than 4,600 people suspected of crossing into the U.S. without proper documentation have been arrested this year under Operation Lone Star. © Mark Felix/AFP /AFP via Getty Images Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has authorized state troopers to assist U.S. Border Patrol in enforcing federal immigration laws. More than 4,600 people suspected of crossing into the U.S. without proper documentation have been arrested this year under Operation Lone Star.

Both men remain in custody and it's not clear what will happen when they're released. State officials could hand them over to federal immigration agents, who may detain or deport them. Or they could be released into the United States to await an immigration hearing.

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The same judge who presided over the Nava-Muñoz case ordered Tuesday the release of 243 migrants arrested under Operation Lone Star on no-cost bonds after prosecutors agreed to the releases. Many of the men had been jailed without charges for more than two weeks, according to Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which represented the migrants.

The Nava-Muñoz case and other legal challenges to the Texas policy could have far-reaching consequences if higher courts take up the case or if other states mimic the policy, said Alicia Torres of Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based immigrants advocacy group.

“If we as a nation don’t stand up to Texas and say, ‘Enough is enough’ … we will see policies like Operation Lone Star pop up across the country,” she said.

Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March, deploying hundreds of state troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety, agents, rangers and National Guard soldiers to back up U.S. Border Patrol, arrest migrants slipping through and combat smugglers. As of late August, more than 4,600 people had been arrested through the initiative for charges including criminal mischief and criminal trespassing, according to a press release from Abbott's office.

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  Texas Republican congressman says the Border Patrol agents filmed whipping at Haitian migrants are 'doing God's work' The Department of Homeland Security announced it has opened an investigation into the treatment of the Haitian migrants, including children.Gonzalez argued that the law enforcement agents were "doing God's work" by attempting to prevent the migrants from crossing the river on Sunday near Del Rio, Texas. Thousands of Haitian migrants hoping to seek asylum in the US are currently sheltering in a squalid makeshift refugee camp under a bridge in Del Rio.

The effort was launched just as the number of migrants encountered by U.S. Border Patrol, especially at the southwest border, soared to numbers not seen in two decades. As of the end of August, border agents had encountered more than 1.5 million migrants this fiscal year, more than the 977,509 encountered during the entire 2019 fiscal year, the last time the agency saw such high numbers.

The Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector in South Texas has been the busiest of any other sector along the U.S.-Mexico border, tallying up 493,993 encounters, followed by the Del Rio Sector, also in Texas, with 214,993, according to statistics released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees Border Patrol.

The migrants have been drawn to the U.S.-Mexico border to escape the aftermath of several recent natural disasters and corruption and violence in their home countries, as well as by the perception that Biden will be more welcoming to migrants than his predecessor, President Donald Trump.

The Biden administration has struggled this year to stem the flow of undocumented border-crossers while attempting to roll back Trump-era policies considered harsh by advocates, such as Title 42, which expels mostly adult men to Mexico without due process to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which places migrants in northern Mexico border towns to await their immigration hearing.

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  WhatsApp, social posts helped lead Haitian migrants to Texas DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — For the final leg of his journey from Chile to the United States, Haitian migrant Fabricio Jean followed detailed instructions sent to him via WhatsApp from his brother in New Jersey who had recently taken the route to the Texas border. His brother wired him money for the trip, then meticulously mapped it out, warning him of areas heavy with Mexican immigration officials. “You will need about 20,000 pesos (about $1,000 U.S. dollars) for the buses. You need to take this bus to this location and then take another bus,” recounted Jean, who spoke to The Associated Press after reaching the border town of Del Rio.

Abbott on Sunday reaffirmed his commitment to Operation Lone Star.

“Because the Biden administration is refusing to do its duty, to enforce the laws of the United States,” he told Fox News, “they’ve left Texas with no position other than to step up and do what we have to do.”

His critics, however, say that Operation Lone Star blatantly disregards the U.S. Constitution, which assigns immigration enforcement to the federal government, and calls to mind past attempts by states to become more involved in federal immigration, such as Arizona’s SB 1070. That 2010 law required state law enforcement officers to determine a suspect’s immigration status during routine stops. Critics said it led to racial profiling and other civil rights violations.

The U.S Supreme Court struck down most of the law in a 5-3 decision in 2012.

Local agencies can still communicate with federal immigration agents and let them know they have a suspected illegal border-crosser, said Geoffrey Hoffman, director of the University of Houston Law Center. But state agents arresting and processing migrants who enter the U.S. without proper documentation violates the Constitution and the Immigration and Nationality Act, he said.

“There’s no gray area -- it's very clear,” Hoffman said. “What the governor’s doing here goes beyond what’s allowed under the law.”

For Haitians, color-coded tickets are key to escape from Border Patrol camp

  For Haitians, color-coded tickets are key to escape from Border Patrol camp U.S. authorities are allowing Haitian migrants at a massive camp in Texas who hold blue and yellow numbered tickets to remain in the country.Along with his 10-year-old daughter, Reyna, the Haitian migrant, who had spent the last six days in a chaotic and squalid encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande, was simply handed a numbered blue ticket by Border Patrol agents, bused into the border town of Del Rio, given a notice to report to immigration authorities and the opportunity to stay in the United States legally.

Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The Texas Department of Public Safety, which oversees Operation Lone Star, did not respond to a list of detailed questions about the initiative.

A Texas state trooper and a U.S. Border Patrol agent detain undocumented immigrants near McAllen, Texas. © John Moore, Getty Images A Texas state trooper and a U.S. Border Patrol agent detain undocumented immigrants near McAllen, Texas.

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said he and his organization are closely monitoring the legal challenges to Operation Lone Star. Abbott’s policy not only leads to racial profiling and infringes on civil liberties but will dissuade Latino residents from reporting crimes, making communities less safe, especially in a state like Texas that is 40% Hispanic, he said.

“Whenever you ask untrained law enforcement officers to engage in immigration enforcement efforts, they are going to revert to racial profiling,” Saenz said. “That’s exactly what an initiative like this invites.”

State troopers arrested Nava, 29, and Muñoz, 41, on July 25 as the pair stood on a public highway in Kinney County, near the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a petition filed with the court by their attorneys. They were presented with a pre-filled document in English, which they didn’t understand, essentially saying they had been informed of their rights and would waive their right to an attorney, according to the petition.

The two spent a night in Val Verde County jail and were later transferred to the Dolph Briscoe Unit, a state prison that was emptied earlier this year to make room for the scores of migrants arrested under Operation Lone Star. They were charged with criminal misdemeanor trespassing on Sept. 8 – 45 days after their arrest.

'They shouldn't be here': Texas border town reckons with Haitian influx

  'They shouldn't be here': Texas border town reckons with Haitian influx U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote resigned with a scathing letter criticizing the treatment of Haitian migrants and deportations from a Texas border camp.The border bridge closed Sept. 17, after U.S. Customs and Border Protection was overwhelmed by the arrival of thousands of Haitian migrants. Each day, Dehoyos loses about $1,000.

Civil rights attorneys discovered them only after Muñoz’s sister, who lives in California, received a phone call from her brother from inside the prison and frantically began contacting advocacy groups, said Torres, the Austin-based advocate.

“It has been very challenging,” she said. “These are two men that were arrested and spent more than 50 days in jail with minimum access to any outside news or understanding of their cases.”

Advocates applauded Tuesday’s dismissal of the case. But they worry Nava and Muñoz will be handed over to federal immigration officials and may be deported. They’re calling on the Biden administration to allow them to stay in the U.S. while their immigration case is heard.

"Operation Lone Star relies on racial profiling and systemically violates due process," Kevin Herrera, the migrants' attorney, said in a statement. "We demand ... that [Department of Homeland Security] cease any collaboration with this unconstitutional program."

Others, however, continue to back Abbott’s decision to deploy state assets to the border to help stem the flow of migrants and drugs.

Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes stricter control on immigration, said the state troopers are mostly picking up undocumented migrants who are trying to sneak past Border Patrol agents, not the ones turning themselves in to request asylum.

She said she'll also be closely watching legal challenges to the policy.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out,” Vaughn said. “We could end up with a blueprint from the courts on exactly what can be done by states to address illegal immigration.”

Follow Jervis on Twitter: @MrRJervis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Texas state troopers arrest thousands of migrants crossing the border. Critics call it unconstitutional.

Live updates: Biden vows action for treatment of Haitian migrants; Mayorkas says migrants gone from bridge camp .
Biden vowed action in his first extensive remarks on border patrol agents on horses who chased and seemed to whip Haitian migrants with their reins.“It’s outrageous. I promise you those people will pay. They will be investigated. There will be consequences,” Biden said in response to a reporter's question at the White House.

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