Civil rights organizations are urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to stop any cooperation with a July order from Texas governor Greg Abbott that purports to give state law enforcement the power to detain and return recently crossed migrants to the border.
Immigration enforcement is strictly the job of the federal government, but Abbott’s anti-immigrant order is testing this authority by reportedly having Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers detain and move migrants to federal property to be turned over to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents.
“The unilateral arrest and transport of migrants on immigration grounds by state officers
and the detention of migrants on federal property by state officers raise serious legal concerns,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Texas said in an Aug. 8 complaint. They urge the department “not to collaborate with these actions,” as well as an investigation from the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
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“Texas Tribune journalists witnessed Texas DPS officers in Eagle Pass transporting men
and women to what appears to be federal property, detaining them there for hours, and then
turning them over to Border Patrol,” the groups say in the complaint. They say the first group consisted of a dozen migrants who were held outdoors in the heat near the international bridge until they were picked up by a federal agent in a white van. “A few hours later, the process was repeated with a new group of migrants.”
“Federal immigration authorities have national standards on how to transport, escort, detain and search suspected migrants, including what types of vehicles are to be used to move migrants, the conditions of the detention and how the officers should behave,” The Texas Tribune reported. “Texas DPS officers are not bound by those same standards.”
“Further, there is significant evidence that DPS engages in systematic discrimination
against Black and brown migrants and Latinx individuals in South Texas more generally,” the organizations continued. Operation Lone Star, another anti-immigrant scheme from Abbott, has, in fact, resulted in numerous high-speed vehicular deaths after officers have racially profiled drivers. “This discriminatory conduct alone provides sufficient reason for the federal government to completely separate itself from DPS’ arrest, transport, and subsequent detention of individuals it believes to be migrants.”
“We therefore urge DHS to take swift action both to reject transfers of migrants transported by Texas DPS to DHS custody and to end any detention of migrants on federal property by Texas DPS or by any other state or local agency,” organizations said. “DHS should reject any involvement with DPS’s immigration enforcement efforts in South Texas—including with Governor Abbott’s July 7 executive order—to ensure that it has no entanglement whatsoever with the agency’s discriminatory actions.”
“We have said from the beginning that Gov. Abbott’s executive order is cruel, unlawful, and likely to result in increased racial profiling of Black and Brown people in Texas,” said Kate Huddleston, staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas. “Recent news that state police are transporting migrants and detaining them for hours before handing them over to Border Patrol is deeply troubling and raises serious legal concerns.”
Abbott’s anti-immigrant order is also pouring gasoline on the scourge of white supremacy, echoing the “invasion” rhetoric used by a number of racist mass murderers, including in his own state. The order is “driven by cynical political motives,” said immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice. “And it’s a chilling development for every family in Texas, be they immigrant, mixed status, Black, Latino, Asian or anyone else law enforcement or individuals might target because of the color of their skin or the accent they speak with.”
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