Texas Border Crackdown: What Does it Mean for Migrants?

Immigration policy is a prominent topic in global politics. There are spirited debates regarding whether immigration hurts or harms our economy; whether borders should be strengthened or loosened. Immigration law is especially important if you or a loved one is not a citizen.

Texas has historically erred on the side of tight borders, and Governor Greg Abbott does not stray from that view. He has pushed for border security throughout his political career. He is cracking down on the wave of immigration at the Texas border in the face of coronavirus and the Biden administration.

Abbott is investing a lot of resources into the effort, including deploying hundreds of law enforcement officers to the border. These officers have made thousands of arrests. These officers have made many arrests for misdemeanor trespass offenses. Abbott says, “the Biden Administration plan is to catch and release. The Texas plan is to catch and to jail.”

Many border towns are small and lack the capacity to process the thousands of arrestees. The court system has been backlogged for months and has not resolved the misdemeanor trespassing cases filed under Abbott’s push for border security. Detainees are housed in an otherwise empty Texas prison facility.

For many, months have passed without a court appearance. They have not been arraigned nor had a bond set. Two officials were recently diagnosed COVID-19, so November settings were delayed without clear guidance on a plan to reset proceedings.

Amrutha Jindal, a Houston defense attorney, argued that the process is unjust, and migrants deserve the same court speed as everyone else. “Because this is a makeshift court, it doesn’t appear they have the standard backup procedures in place that a traditional court system would for when something like this happens.” (Texas Tribune) Many also say that this program is unconstitutional.

With Abbott continuing to crackdown, more migrants will be arrested, and the court will become increasingly backlogged. These policies do not appear to be stopping migrants from entering Texas. Hundreds of migrants, mostly from Mexico, continue to cross the international river and are met by Border Patrol agents. Texas prisons and county jails will continue to house these individuals in tight quarters until their cases are resolved or they are released on bond.

So, if the courts are full, the jails are full, and immigrants continue to enter illegally, should Abbott consider a new course of action? Will the federal government step in and offer Texas assistance? Only time will tell whether the policy continues and whether court hearings will start taking place on time.

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