October 22, 2021

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Hundreds of migrants have been jailed under Abbott’s ‘unlawful’ scheme for weeks with no charges


The Texas Tribune reports that state law “requires that defendants be released from jail if prosecutors delay cases by not filing charges quickly,” which is anywhere from 15 to 30 days for the kinds of trespassing charges Abbott has sought against migrants under his plan. But that deadline has “fallen by the wayside,” the report said. This is Greg Abbott, so that’s no accident. Advocates are now seeking their release, “[c]iting the widespread violations of state laws and constitutional due process rights.”

“We can’t have a country or a system where people are being rounded up like this and sort of tucked away and hidden without the oversight and respective rights that the Constitution demands,” Restoring Justice attorney Amrutha Jindal told The Texas Tribune. “The system crumbles without due process.” Just Futures Law attorney Kevin Herrera said Operation Lone Star “decimates basic constitutional protections in the Texas legal system,” calling the arrests “racially motivated and unlawful.” Along with Grassroots Leadership, the organization has petitioned for Nava and Muñoz’s release.

Just Futures Law, Grassroots Leadership, Texas Fair Defense Project, and LatinoJustice PRLDEF have previously said that when it comes to those prosecuted under Operation Lone Star, “[r]eports of the first convictions are alarming. Horrific videos posted by one county sheriff show individuals herded into mass hearings in parking lots.” The groups estimate that more than 400 people “are currently detained pretrial in a state prison, many without access to counsel.”

“Governor Abbott has been open about Lone Star’s mission: use local and state law enforcement to create a new class of ‘criminal aliens’ that can be deported quickly and prevent their return,” they continued. “In other words, Governor Abbott built his own state deportation force and is using state funds to power it. He plans to keep this operation running for years and is now seeking almost $2 billion from the state legislature to sustain and expand Lone Star.”

Facing primary opponents even more right wing than he is, Abbott is using asylum-seekers and migrants, including children, as his human props. Because of Abbott, facilities sheltering unaccompanied children are currently running without state licenses. “When children are in unlicensed facilities, the lack of licensing safeguards may result in threats to their health and safety, such as insufficient staffing levels, inappropriate staff, inadequate services, harmful disciplinary actions, and risks of physical/sexual abuse and trafficking,” 70 outraged advocacy groups told him. But you won’t hear about any of that from the so-called family values crowd. Abbott’s actions amid the Republican primary have also stooped to the downright ridiculous, last week touting a “steel wall” consisting of state-owned cars lined up along the Rio Grande.

When it comes to Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, Grassroots Leadership and Just Futures Law said in their statement they’re set to go to court on Tuesday to call for Nava and Muñoz’s charges to be dismissed, for charges against all migrants arrested under Operation Lone Star to be dismissed, and for an immediate end to the program.

“The men trapped in this process have faced considerable obstacles gaining access to legal counsel, access to courts, and continue to be incarcerated despite grounds for release due to their unlawful arrest and procedural delay,” said attorney Kathryn Dyer. “Rather than focus on actual public safety concerns, Governor Abbott has prioritized using unconstitutional means to a political end.” Grassroots Leadership Co-Executive Director Annette Price said the program “was designed to be abusive, dangerous, and unlawful; that makes Texas a very dangerous place for migrants and people of color.”





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