This article contains editorial content by a staff writer for Law Enforcement Today
KINNEY COUNTY, TX – The left is launching a fresh assault on Texas’ battle against a massive influx of illegal aliens, courtesy of the Biden administration’s open-door policy on the Southern border.
A lawsuit filed April 27 against Gov. Greg Abbott and other officials all but states Texas’ efforts to control the invasion are too successful and must be stopped.
One county attorney familiar with the lawsuit said it doesn’t seem to be “based in actual law and fact” and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called it “ludicrous.”
The lawsuit filed by the group of 15 illegal aliens targets Texas officials for alleged constitutional violations as part of the governor’s Operation Lone Star criminal trespass program.
Texas officials don’t appear concerned about the lawsuit. Abbott defended the program in a statement issued April 29. He said:
“Every individual who is apprehended or arrested and every ounce of drugs seized would have otherwise made their way into communities across Texas and the nation due to President Biden’s open border policies.”
— The Epoch Times (@EpochTimes) May 4, 2022
The unidentified lawyers hope to turn the case into a class-action lawsuit on behalf of more than 2,000 illegal immigrants who they claim have been over-incarcerated; arrested based on race, immigration status, or national origin; and denied due process. The lawsuit states:
“In particular, the Plaintiffs and the Class Members have suffered a common cause of injury, namely the violation of their Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights.”
“Using state criminal law, the state of Texas and participating counties have created, and are carrying out what is, in reality, a system of state immigration enforcement that targets Black and Brown—primarily Latino—individuals for prosecution and enhanced punishment.”
The lawyers are seeking $18,000 per day for each inmate that is found to have been unlawfully incarcerated or unlawfully reincarcerated. They also seek an injunction to discontinue the Operation Lone Star program.
Gov. Abbot launched the Operation Lone Star trespassing effort in March 2021 while dramatically boosting the number of Texas state troopers on border roads to intercept smugglers and deploying Texas National Guardsmen to the border for security and observation.
The program was expanded in June last year to include trespassing on private or state land. Operation Lone Star’s budget funded jail space for alleged illegal immigrant trespassers, their defense counsel and prosecution resources.
ICYMI: Operation Lone Star Apprehends Over 239.8K Migrants, Continues To Secure The Border
— Texas DPS (@TxDPS) May 2, 2022
Kinney County and neighboring Val Verde County in south Texas were the first to begin the trespass prosecutions. Since then, seven more counties have joined: Edwards, Frio, Jim Hogg, Kimble, Maverick, Uvalde and Zavala.
Kinney County and Kinney Sheriff Brad Coe are defendants in the lawsuit, along with Abbott, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, and TDPS Executive Director Bryan Collier.
The lawsuit alleges:
“Under the guise of state criminal trespass law but with the explicit, stated goal of punishing migrants based on their immigration status, Texas officials are targeting migrants. OLS targets only migrants, and only men of brown or black skin.
“Hundreds of those arrested have waited in jail for weeks or months without a lawyer, or without charges, or without bond, or without a legitimate detention hold or without a court date.”
ICYMI: Operation Lone Star Seizes Over 300 Million Lethal Doses Of Fentanyl, Continues To Secure The Border
"Every individual who is apprehended or arrested and every ounce of drugs seized would have otherwise made their way into communities across TX."https://t.co/caO2OiL8w2
— Texas DPS (@TxDPS) April 25, 2022
County Attorney Brent Smith said Kinney has struggled to keep up with the volume of prosecutions, which he said went from about six cases a month to more than 30 a day. He said the law has safeguards in place to protect the defendants. Smith said in an interview:
“For instance, a writ of habeas corpus hearing is triggered when more than 30 days elapses before there’s a complaint filed. And when that occurs, they’re eligible to get a reduced bond or a PR bond.”
Regarding the lawsuit, Smith told The Epoch Times on May 2 that:
“. . .it reads more like the liberal media propaganda than something based in actual law and fact.”
He dismissed outright the racial-profiling allegation. He said:
“Nowhere in the entire complaint can they point out where we didn’t arrest someone because they were white or non-Hispanic or non-Latino. If you’re breaking the law, you get arrested.”
Smith noted that the probable cause affidavits he reviews don’t list ethnicity. He said:
“It doesn’t come into play with the facts and what the law says. So that argument is not only incorrect, but very presumptuous and racist in and of itself that race has anything to do with it.”
Smith noted that the first trespassing case he prosecuted last year involved two white male American citizens. He added:
“If those politicians actually cared about their constituents as much as they say they do, they would be writing a letter to DHS to say the border is open and their constituents are put in danger.”
Sheriff Coe, who spoke with The Epoch Times on April 29, said he hasn’t yet been served nor has he read a copy of the lawsuit. He pointed out the absurdity of the racial-profiling claim:
“It’s kind of hard to profile when a) you can’t see inside the vehicles, everybody has tinted windows. And b) it’s hard to profile when you’re sitting there waiting for somebody to show up and a group of 10 shows up and they’re all Mexicans. So how is that profiling?”
“We’re protecting citizens, we’re protecting landowners, so I don’t really see it going anywhere, but we’ll see what happens.”
Lt. Christopher Olivarez, DPS spokesman for the south Texas region, told The Epoch Times through email that the department does not discuss pending litigation.
It appears that the program has the blessing of the majority of the state’s officials, as the Texas legislature has approved nearly $3.5 billion to fund it since September last year.
It naturally has been a lightning rod for criticism by Democrats and others on the left since its beginning, including the American Civil Liberties Union and lawyer groups for illegal immigrants.
A group of 50 Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, asking that the Department of Justice shut it down.
The Jan. 26 letter alleges:
“Operation Lone Star uses state criminal law to target Black and Latino migrants for punishment.”
The ACLU filed a 50-page complaint with the Department of Justice in December 2021, alleging:
“Anti-immigrant hate is on the rise in Texas, and state and local officials are fanning the flames.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton defended Operation Lone Star, saying it’s “shocking” that anyone would call it unconstitutional. Paxton spoke at a press conference Jan. 28, and stated:
“We have a right in this state to protect our citizens.”
“When the federal government stares us in the face, invites people across the border, and people have cartel members walking across their property, threatening their lives, exposing them to COVID, running drugs, running human trafficking rings—and then we’re told that it’s unconstitutional for the governor to put together a program with our great law enforcement officials to protect our citizens, to me it’s absolutely ludicrous and wrong.”
Abbott has defended the program, saying it:
“. . .continues to fill the dangerous gaps left by the Biden administration’s refusal to secure the border.”
Abbot declared a state of disaster on May 31, 2021, as the crisis escalated. This meant most misdemeanor charges of trespassing were elevated from a Class B to a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a higher penalty. The charge is also elevated if the suspect has a deadly weapon or is found more than 100 feet past the property line on agricultural land.
Since August 2021, Kinney County has prosecuted more than 2,885 illegal aliens and a handful of U.S. citizens for trespassing and evading arrest and Smith noted that the illegal aliens arrested on ranches are not turning themselves over to Border Patrol and seeking asylum. Smith said:
“They’re being smuggled across. And then whenever law enforcement locates them, they’re running. They’re not trying to surrender at all.
“If they were trying to claim asylum, they’d be doing that at the port of entry, or the first law enforcement they come to. But instead, they’re evading law enforcement—and they’re destroying property while they do it.”
The county only has 14 male-only jail spaces, which are perpetually full. So the aliens are booked and appear before a magistrate at a tent facility in neighboring Val Verde County.
From Val Verde, troopers transport them 100 miles away to the Briscoe Unit in Dilley, Texas, which has been repurposed to detain almost 1,000 illegal aliens awaiting court cases and serving out sentences. The Segovia Unit in Edinburg, Texas, has also been repurposed for detainees from Operation Lone Star.
Kinney County’s first jury trial is scheduled for May 9 for several aliens who pleaded not guilty to trespass.
Border Patrol agents made more than 1.3 million apprehensions of illegal aliens in Texas in 2021. An additional half million are estimated to have evaded capture, according to Texas state records.
NYT reports that several Democrats are flipping to Republican in counties of border towns in Texas
March 1, 2022
TERRELL COUNTY, TX – According to a report from the New York Times, for the first time, multiple elected officials in certain counties in Texas are opting to run as Republicans rather than as Democrats.
— CasualMeyhem (@CasualMeyhem) March 1, 2022
This is being coined as a “quiet political upheaval” across U.S. towns that border Mexico, fueled mostly by rising crime and constant waves of illegal immigration. In one particular community, Terrell County, a wave of Democrats are switching parties to join the GOP. The Times reported:
“First, the Democratic county judge said she would seek another term — as a Republican. Then the county clerk and the treasurer decided that they too would abandon the Democratic party, which has long held sway in local elections and run this year as Republicans.”
The report added:
“A county justice of the peace felt the urge to switch parties as well, but she did not want to disappoint her parents, who raised he as a Democrat … the transformation of local politics in Terrell County — a working-class border community of fewer than 1,000 people — provides an ominous signal for Texas Democrats: Conservative Hispanics are not only realigning in presidential elections, but also in contest much closer to home.”
The county’s elected officials’ shift to the GOP can more than likely be traced to President Joe Biden’s ongoing border crisis. In 2021, more than two million illegal immigrants arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border and more than 2.1 million are reportedly expected to arrive in 2022.
Texas ranchers turn down Biden aid for illegal immigration damages https://t.co/ay9g9h7HGn
— ✞🕊GOD-Family-Country🇺🇸 (@Elle_Vien) March 1, 2022
Border towns like Terrell County are reportedly footing the cost of illegal immigration and the death, despair, and destruction that often comes along with it. A rancher in Sanderson, Texas explained how a young male border-crosser was found dead in his 17,000-acre ranch in 2021.
According to reports, the county could not financially grapple with the rising number of dead border crossers found in their community. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has allocated $8 million to the county to deal with illegal immigration.
In Starr County, Texas, where the Rio Grande separates Texas communities from Mexico, the Washington Post detailed how a wave of Republican voters are creating a similar political upheaval in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s massive gains. The Post reported:
“A turning point came in 2020 when President Donald Trump won 47 percent of the Starr County vote, up from 19 percent in 2016. About 6,000 more Republican voters suddenly appeared at the ballot box, even as the Democratic numbers remained roughly the same. In three neighboring counties of the Rio Grande Valley, the vote margin shifted toward the GOP by at least 10 percentage points.”
The report added:
What constitutes a border invasion? And what does the Constitution empower states to do? Steve Bannon and I talk about these questions and why Texas isn’t doing enough to fight illegal immigration. https://t.co/fc6bQGJ4Uo
— Louie Gohmert (@LouieGohmertTX1) February 24, 2022
“‘I have always measured my words because we have to live here,’ said Derric Leo Treviño, a 13th generation Texan running this year as a Republican for a Starr County justice of the peace seat. ‘It’s ingrained that we keep our politics to ourselves because they may fire your wife or your cousin. But Trump made it okay to admit you’re a Republican. He started the fire.'”
The Post wrote:
“A popular State House member, Ryan Guillen, flipped parties in November and picked up Trump’s endorsement in his bid for reelection. Trump has also endorsed Monica De La Cruzi, who is running for an open congressional seat previously held by a Democrat, which stretches north from the border to San Antonio. Republicans are hopeful that San Benito school board member Janie Lopez will be able to pick up another State House seat farther east, after the redrawing of district lines.”
Reportedly, Governor Abbott’s former campaign manager Wayne Hamilton, who now heads Project Red Texas, told The Post that record-high illegal immigration along the southern border as well as national Democrats’ shift toward a party that represents upper-middle-class interests over working-class grit is all part of the region’s realignment.
Want to make sure you never miss a story from Law Enforcement Today? With so much “stuff” happening in the world on social media, it’s easy for things to get lost.