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Texas cracks down on illegal immigration: Gov. Abbott celebrates the indictment of nearly 150 migrants

More than three years ago, the state of Texas launched Operation Lone Star, a controversial, expensive, and very complicated initiative aimed at securing the border with state efforts in the absence of proper federal help for stopping the influx of migrants at the border with Mexico. Combined with the assistance from other Republican-led states that provided additional aid to the Lone Star State, Texas was able to reduce the number of migrant encounters, forcing migrants to seek alternative entry points, usually in Arizona and California.

The measures

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott implemented various measures as part of Operation Lone Star, which many find controversial. Installing razor wire for hundreds of miles along the border, building the controversial border wall, installing a floating buoy barrier, and transporting migrants with buses to sanctuary states and cities are some of the measures Gov. Abbott took over the last few years. So far, Texas has transported more than 100,000 migrants to cities like New York City, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., in what appears to be a more than $148 million operation.

The results

Despite the unpopular measures, the number of encounters with migrants at the Texas border has significantly decreased in recent weeks, as migrants now more frequently choose entry points where they can easily get into the country. This is especially impacting southern areas of California that have a hard time handling the record-high number of migrants. The improved security at the border makes migrants more aggressive, sometimes escalating incidents like the one that took place late last month that resulted in more than 200 people being arrested and several troopers being injured.

The March incident

On March 21, near El Paso, Texas, a group of migrants managed to get past some border barriers, after which they were detained. A video by New York Post reporter Jennie Taer shows these migrants dismantling a fence and pushing through a line of individuals in uniforms, likely National Guard members, until they encountered a stronger fence. Local officials quickly confirmed the arrest and custody of over 200 migrants involved in this event. During this breach, several members of the Texas State troops sustained minor injuries.

Texas judge decided to release all individuals involved in the rioting on their own recognizance. The decision was reversed by a grand jury
Texas troops installing razor wire at the Texas-Mexico border, credit: Gov. Greg Abbott X

The jury against a judge

El Paso District Attorney Bill Hicks reported that 221 migrants were apprehended following this incident in late March. Last weekend, Magistrate Judge Humberto Acosta decided to release all individuals involved in the rioting on their own recognizance. However, this decision was reversed by a grand jury on Monday. District Attorney Bill Hicks explained that the grand jury, representing the El Paso community, found enough evidence to challenge the judge’s initial ruling and establish that the riots indeed took place.

Texas judge decided to release all individuals involved in the rioting on their own recognizance. The decision was reversed by a grand jury
Gov. Greg Abbott, credit: Gov. Greg Abbott X

Rare but rightful decision

Governor Abbott of Texas praised the grand jury’s decision as a significant victory for the state, posting the following on X: “A Texas grand jury indicts more than 140 illegal immigrants for rioting stemming from their mass attempt to breach the U.S. border. This comes a day after a judge threw out the cases.”

Jail time and a fine

If found guilty of misdemeanor rioting, each of the 141 charged migrants could face up to six months in county jail and be fined as much as $2,000. Some of them are also dealing with federal charges. Data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection indicates a decrease in migrant encounters in Texas, with 68,260 in January compared to 149,806 the previous January. Childress-Diaz criticized the grand jury’s decision as politically motivated

Texas judge decided to release all individuals involved in the rioting on their own recognizance. The decision was reversed by a grand jury
Migrants at the border, Photo credit: IOM/Camilo Cruz

“It turns my stomach that these people are nothing more than than, you know, political coins in a bet that some of our government officials have hedged,” Childress-Diaz said earlier this week.

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