‘We’ll hold the line’: Texas starting to arrest illegal immigrants who cross the border

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TEXAS – According to reports, Texas is starting to arrest illegal immigrants crossing the southern border under trespassing charges, following Governor Greg Abbott’s effort to crack down on issues impacting the southern border running across Texas.

The arrested border crossers are reportedly being held at the Briscoe Unit in Dilley, which is a prison that formerly held domestic offenders but has since been cleared out to be dedicated toward holding those crossing into the U.S. illegally.

As of July 22nd, at least 10 offenders have been arrested under this novel approach to combatting the border crisis impacting Texas. Robert Hurst, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, says that the prison facility is designed to hold over 950 inmates.

Val Verde County Attorney David Martinez says that the only people arrested thus far have been single adult males.

Martinez stated that he was advised in the past week that the number of arrests could reach as high as 100-200 per day, which he stated, “would overwhelm not only my office, but our entire system pretty quickly.”

Martinez noted that his understanding of this initiative is that state troopers would not be arresting those crossing in familial units, but only lone, adult crossers:

“If John Doe is caught on my property and he has his wife and his children with him, chances are he’s not going to be arrested. That’s what’s been represented to me.”

Considering that a majority of the land stretching across the southern border in Texas is private, any sort of legal challenges against the governor’s approval to enact these arrests would face an uphill battle since trespassing is a legitimate, jailable offense that can see offenders jailed anywhere between 6 months to a year, depending on the circumstances of the criminal trespassing.

According to Martinez, the process starts with border crossers being brought to the Del Rio jail for processing and then would be transported to Briscoe Unit within 24 hours.

From there, Martinez says that he’d likely offer most offenders arrested on misdemeanor trespassing a sentence of time served after going through the various processes, which would take roughly 10 days by his estimate. 

Thereafter, the offenders would be handed off to ICE, with a newly minted misdemeanor criminal conviction which will likely lead to quick deportations for those handed off. 

Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens spelled it out rather clearly when addressing the legal authority for enacting these arrests:

“If you cross the river, and almost everyone down there has posted ‘no trespassing’ signs, so once you cross and get on the property, you will be picked up and taken to jail for trespassing.”

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in a statement on July 21st that they have been working alongside the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to ensure that the Briscoe Unit prison is properly converted to meet required jail standards.

For instance, the prison guards that worked at the Briscoe Unit were temporarily licensed as jailers, additional medical staff and guards were allocated to the facility and air conditioning has been installed in the housing areas of the unit.

At least one housing area has been brought up to standard at the facility, with the other buildings at the Briscoe Unit still undergoing renovations to be brought up to jail code.

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The arresting of border crossers is the latest phase of what Governor Greg Abbott dubbed as “Operation Lone Star”. Back in March, we at Law Enforcement Today shared a report of when the operation first kicked off with state troopers being sent to the southern border. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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AUSTIN, TX – Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently announced a newly launched plan to curtail and combat issues related to the smuggling of humans and narcotics through the southern border, which includes deploying the states National Guard and State Troopers to key areas. 

On March 6th, Governor Abbott announced what has been dubbed as “Operation Lone Star” – which the operation’s main focus is, “to combat the smuggling of people and drugs into Texas.”

In a statement provided by Governor Abbott regarding the operation, the following was noted: 

“The crisis at our southern border continues to escalate because of Biden Administration policies that refuse to secure the border and invite illegal immigration.”

“Texas supports legal immigration but will not be an accomplice to the open border policies that cause, rather than prevent, a humanitarian crisis in our state and endanger the lives of Texans.

We will surge the resources and law enforcement personnel needed to confront this crisis.”

The effort will include the deployment of the state’s National Guard and DPS officers in concurrence with, “air, ground, marine, & tactical border security assets to deny Mexican cartels & smugglers the ability to move drugs & people into Texas,” as mentioned in a follow-up tweet by the governor. 

Just days before this announcement from the governor was made, even Democrat Congressman Henry Cuellar admitted that there was something that needed to be done about what was impending at the southern border: 

“We are weeks, maybe even days, away from a crisis on the southern border. Inaction is simply not an option. Our country is currently unprepared to handle a surge in migrants in the middle of the pandemic.”

The Texas Democrat made said statement after it was revealed that Rio Grande Valley Sector Border Patrol agents had managed to apprehend approximately 10,000 migrants in a seven-day period between late-February and early March. 

Congressman Cuellar explained that with illegal border crossings going along in concurrence with the ongoing pandemic is, “potentially exposing border communities to the coronavirus and putting us at risk.

Right now, none of the migrants are being tested for COVID-19 by Border Patrol.”

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Another facet of Operation Lone Star was the June announcement from Governor Abbott that Texas will be funding their own border wall to help curtail illegal immigration into the country. 

Here’s that previous report from June. 

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DEL RIO, TX- On Thursday, June 10th, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that Texas will build its own border wall along the states boundary with Mexico.

Gov. Abbott told Breitbart Texas that the state will immediately begin building border barriers in areas like Del Rio where illegal immigrants can easily cross unsecured sections of the Rio Grande. There has been a massive increase in illegal border crossings in the Del Rio region.

As of recent, Del Rio Sector agents have apprehended 27,890 illegal immigrants, which is a 1,118 percent increase over the May 2020 report of 2,289. Shortly before his public announcement, Abbott said to Breitbart Texas:

“The influx across the border is out of control and the Biden administration has shown that it is not going to step up and do its job. And amidst reports of even more people coming in across the border, we know we have to step up and do more.”

While making his public announce in Del Rio, Abbott said:

“The reason why we are here is before of the massive increase. Border crossings used to be highly concentrated in the Rio Grande Valley. Now, you know we’re upstream from the Rio Grande Valley in the Del Rio Sector and the Del Rio Sector is suffering from some of the largest increases.”

Abbott stated that his office is hearing from local residents and elected and law enforcement officials that they are seeing things that they have never seen before. He added:

“They’re seeing a lot of very bad dangerous people come across the border. People they are afraid of encountering, people who are causing damage to their fences, their livestock, their crops, their neighborhoods, and their homes.”

The governor stated:

“Bad things are happening around here and so they need help from the state to help them address this exploding crisis.”

To address the funding of the border barriers, the governor said that authorities will use existing policies under a State of Emergency declaration to crack down on those illegally crossing the border. He said:

“What people have seen in videos across the country seems to be the Biden administration welcoming these people to the United States. We won’t be sending that message.”

Abbott said firmly:

“If you come to Texas, you’re subject to being arrested. You’re not going to have a pathway to roam the country. You’re going to have a pathway directly into a jail cell.”

He added:

“We want to be very aggressive in working with local officials and begin making mass arrests. In working in collaboration with a large number of counties, that means we’re going to be arresting a lot more people.”

Abbott explained that the barriers serve two functions in the battle against illegal border crossings. The first being the obvious physical deterrence and the second being:

“If they move or interfere with the barrier, they have committed several crimes.”

Some of those crimes include criminal mischief, vandalism of state property or local government property, and criminal trespass. The recent declaration of a State of Emergency by the State of Texas causes those penalties for the crimes to increase by one level. Abbott said:

“That means up to 180 days in jail. Something that may be a Class B misdemeanor right now, turned into a Class A misdemeanor and so they can get into a lot of trouble. There’s even potential for state jail felonies for some of these crimes. So, they can wind up in jail for a long time.”

Officials have identified more than 1,000 jail cells that can be used to hold arrested illegal immigrants. His office will begin actively working with local and state officials to identify more space. Abbott said they may even consider building additional jail space in the form of soft-sided facilities.

To help facilitate this effort, Gov. Abbott teamed up with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to call on other fellow governors across the nation to provide assistance in the ongoing border crisis. The two governors said:

“With your help, we can apprehend more of these perpetrators of state and federal crimes before they can cause problems in your state. Texas and Arizona have stepped up to secure the border in the federal government’s absence and now, the Emergency Management Assistance Compact gives your State a chance to stand strong with us.”

Abbott added that he anticipates a high level of participation. He said:

“I’ll tell you why. The immigration issue and the border issue is not just the number one issue of Texas, it’s the number one issue in America and so all of these other governors, they hear the same concerns that we hear about in Texas.”

In the one-on-one interview with Breitbart Texas, Abbott said:

“Texas already has done more than any other state to secure the border, but we know that more has to be done and we’re stepping up to undertake an unprecedented response to the border crisis caused by the federal government.”

He added:

“In the end, only the federal government and Congress can fix this, but as it stands right now, the state of Texas is going to step up and we’re going to start making arrests, sending a message to anybody thinking about coming here. You’re not going to get a free pass to the U.S. They’re getting a straight pass to a jail cell.”

During his speech at Del Rio, Abbott blamed the recent surge of illegal immigrants to the Texas-Mexico border on the Biden administration’s immigration policies, stating that new federal policies have paved the way for “dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers, and deadly drugs like fentanyl to pour” into the communities. He added:

“The border crisis is no laughing matter. This is something that also is not a tourism site for members of Congress to make an annual pilgrimage to and see the border and then go back and do absolutely nothing at the federal government level to solve the crisis.”

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