Red State Arrests Thousands

Photo by Joshua Case on Unsplash

( – Abdoul, a 32-year-old political activist from West Africa, recently experienced a dramatic and unexpected turn in his journey to the United States. After fleeing Mauritania due to fears of persecution, he found himself detained for weeks in a Texas jail on local trespassing charges, a consequence of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a condition of anonymity to protect his asylum request, Abdoul shared his harrowing experience of spending sleepless hours on the jail floor. His story is a stark example of the challenges faced by many migrants this year, including thousands who have settled in New York City.

Starting in March, Texas is set to implement a new law, approved by GOP Governor Greg Abbott, allowing police to arrest migrants who illegally enter the state and empowering local judges to order their removal from the country. This law follows a smaller-scale operation launched two years ago in Texas, where migrants were arrested for trespassing. However, despite its intention to curb illegal crossings, there’s little evidence to suggest it has been effective.

Civil rights groups have sued to stop this new law, labeling it as an unconstitutional overreach into federal immigration authority. Under Abbott’s “arrest and jail” operation since 2021, nearly 10,000 migrants have been arrested on misdemeanor trespassing charges. This initiative involved agreements with border landowners, authorizing the state to make arrests on their properties.

The constitutionality of these arrests has been challenged in courts, with some landowners even revoking permission for such actions on their property. Despite Abbott’s initial expectations of deterring migration, the number of Texas-Mexico border crossings has continued to rise, reaching over 1.5 million in the past fiscal year.

Sheriff Tom Schmerber of Maverick County, where Abdoul was arrested, acknowledged the ongoing influx of migrants. Abbott hinted at phasing out trespassing arrests in favor of broader illegal entry charges applicable across the state.

Operation Lone Star, Abbott’s nearly $10 billion border mission, has included various measures like busing migrants to Democratic-led cities and installing barriers along the Rio Grande. Maverick County, a focal point of these efforts, has seen an increased law enforcement presence, including assistance from other GOP-led states.

Abdoul’s arrest in Eagle Pass’s Shelby Park exemplified the operation’s reach. He was quickly taken into custody, pleaded guilty to trespassing due to distress, and faced a potential year-long jail sentence.

The majority of migrants arrested for trespassing, represented by attorney Kristen Etter, have been allowed to seek asylum. Etter noted that the operation might attract more migrants rather than deter them.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, spearheading the trespassing arrests, claims significant criminal apprehensions through Operation Lone Star. Yet, Eagle Pass Mayor Rolando Salinas, who initially supported and then rescinded a trespassing affidavit, ultimately backed the operation for bringing additional law enforcement to the area.

State Rep. David Spiller, author of the new arrest law, conceded that while these prosecutions might slow migration, they haven’t stopped it. Many migrants like Abdoul, now in New York awaiting a work permit and an immigration judge’s decision, are assimilating into American society. Abdoul’s aspiration is to continue his education, emphasizing his desire to be well-educated once his legal situation is resolved.

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