State District Judge Roland Andrade ruled Abbott’s policy of arresting migrant men crossing the border illegally and caught trespassing violated Texas’ due process law. The law calls for the release of criminal defendants on their own recognizance if prosecutors don’t file charges against them in a timely fashion. The timeframe varies depending on the crime.
After the migrants’ apprehension, Val Verde and Kinney counties agreed with Kristin Etter on behalf of the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) that if prosecutors didn’t file charges within 15 and 30 days, respectively, they would release them. That is standard procedure in cases of criminal trespassing. Kinney County argued in court that Abbott’s emergence declaration warranted extending the deadline in the county to 30 days in all cases involving migrants. Andrade agreed.
“I’m glad you all worked out most of these, and hopefully everything will be streamlined a little bit more,” Andrade, a Republican, said at the end of the hearing. “It’s a learning experience for everybody, even the court here.”
The ordered releases are the latest stumble in Abbott’s new state criminal justice system for migrants that has been fraught with problems since he initiated it in July.
In that time, migrants have been wrongfully separated from their families during arrests, men whose criminal cases were dismissed have been released without any federal or state coordination into border towns without any documents and the justice system has been in violation of state laws in its delays to file charges and appoint attorneys.
So far, about 1,000 men, the majority Latino, have been arrested by Texas state police and accused of trespassing on private property under Abbott’s order. As of Monday, more than 900 men were jailed in two Texas prisons converted into state immigration jails this summer.
Andrade’s decision frees more than 200 migrant men from imprisonment. Whether local law enforcement will hand them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or release them pending trial remains unclear. Abbott’s “catch and jail” policy doesn’t apply to migrant women and children.
Support for President Biden’s handling of immigration has dropped substantially in recent weeks. According to Quinnipiac, only 20% of Texas voters approve of Biden’s handling of the issue—compared to 71% who disapprove, a disastrous sign for Democrats.