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A state district judge on Thursday may set in motion a new wave of legal objections to Governor Greg Abbott’s afflicted border protection initiative, ruling that the arrest of a migrant for violating a state offense violated US constitutionality provisions because immigration enforcement is federal. government work.
At the first Travis District Court hearing to challenge Abbott’s new approach to “arrest and imprisonment” in Operation Lone Star, District Judge Jan Soifer agreed to the arrest and prosecution of an Ecuadorian migrant.
Although the decision can be appealed and only applies to Jesus Guzman Curipom, a 36-year-old oil engineer, it has opened the door to constitutional calls from more than thousands of migrants who have been jailed for alleged violations since the governor focused on mass arrests for house violations. as a way to restrict border crossings.
“Anyone arrested for OLS offenses will have exactly the same challenge,” said Kristin Etter, a Texas RioGrande Legal Aid attorney who represents hundreds of migrants. “This is a clear precedent in all these pending and future cases.”
Although this is far from the first judicial objection to the arrest of the Abbott Initiative – which has been plagued by illegal arrests, prosecutors’ mistakes, court delays and ethical complaints – Soifer’s decision is the first to rule against the constitutionality of arresting a migrant for foreign law violations.
As the number of migrants detained rose sharply on the Texas-Mexico border last year, Abbott was outraged by President Joe Biden’s immigration policy and sought to crack down on illegal immigration by sending thousands of state police and military personnel to the border area. He moved to avoid federal immigration law jurisdiction when he ordered his police to arrest people suspected of crossing the border illegally on the basis of state crimes such as human trafficking or unauthorized entry.
“While the Biden administration refuses to do its job and ignores requests from border communities for help, Governor Abbott continues to work with state and local partners to provide the critical staff and resources needed to secure the border and protect Texans,” Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze said. , said in a December statement.
Since July, Etter has said that more than 2,000 men have been arrested in Kinney County alone, which has a population of about 3,000, for alleged intrusion. Nearly 900 people are currently being held in state-converted immigration prisons, and men often wait months for their first court hearing on charges that could put them in jail for up to a year.
Guzman Curipoma’s lawyers argued that his arrest, like thousands of others, was unconstitutional because it was an attempt to violate federal immigration law.
“Prosecuting people suspected of migrants for non-violent crimes in Operation Lone Star is unconstitutional under the supremacy clause,” lawyer Angelica Cogliano argued in court on Thursday.
The supremacy clause clarifies that federal law and the constitution prevail over state law. During the hearing before Soifer, lawyers often referred to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the controversial Arizona Law of 2010, which made an illegal presence in the United States a state crime. the power of the federal government to use discretion in the deportation process.
“State laws that sought to supplement the federal immigration law with parallel state criminal sanctions for immigration offenses have been overturned by the courts,” Cogliano and lawyer Addy Miró wrote in Guzman Curipoma.
It is not clear how and whether he will appeal against Soifer’s judgment. Guzman Curipoma’s lawyers, who avoided a conservative judge and an overburdened court in Kinney County, where the vast majority of arrests for foreign rights violations took place, have called for an appeal in Austin. The lawyers in the files argued that such cases could be heard by any state district judge, not just the judge presiding over the defendant’s criminal proceedings, and that long delays in a small court should allow them to seek help elsewhere.
The case then came before a Democratic judge with a progressive district prosecutor’s office in Travis district representing the state on the side of Guzman Curipoma.
The governor’s office did not answer questions immediately on Thursday afternoon, and a spokesman for the Kinney County Attorney’s Attorney said he would not comment on the ongoing litigation.
A private lawyer acting on behalf of the Kinney County District Attorney protested in vain against the hearing. David Schulman argued that Guzman Curipoma’s objection to his arrest should not be heard because he had been released on bail in the meantime. He also urged that the state be represented at the hearing of the migrant by the Kinney County Attorney’s Office, not the plaintiffs in Austin.
“This case has nothing to do with Travis County,” Schulman said.
Schulman later argued that the Texas Attorney General’s Office should be involved in the case, but Soifer rejected the idea.
Etter said the reason lawyers began looking for hearings outside Kinney County is that it often takes more than a month for any urgent problem to be heard in a small border town. The change was also attributed to Kinney County Judge Tully Shahan, who fired state-assigned judges who helped him with his case after firing many free bond migrants. The new judges he appoints often refuse to reduce bail or provide any other relief for migrants, leading to a rapid increase in the number of men who confess to receiving a sentence equal to the time they were already in prison at their first trial.