A county attorney has dropped charges against 11 migrants arrested under Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s high-profile border crackdown following claims they were set up for trespassing.
The men told lawyers they were marched for about 20 minutes to a fenced ranch by law enforcement, then arrested for trespassing, the Texas Tribune reported.
In the absence of video evidence or a written report of the incident in August from U.S. Border Patrol, Val Verde County Attorney David Martinez dismissed the trespassing charges this month after the men spent nearly two months in state prison.
An arrest affidavit stated that the men tried to escape on foot after a highway traffic stop by Border Patrol agents. The migrants told attorneys when they were apprehended near the highway, officers made them walk for more than 20 minutes and climb over a fence onto a ranch before they were subsequently arrested for trespassing by state troopers.
The migrants claimed officers cut the landowner’s fence so as a police dog could get onto the property. The Texas Department of Public Safety disputed the migrants’ claims, stating that they jumped a fence onto private property. A spokesperson from Border Patrol said suggestions officers led migrants to private property so they could be arrested for trespassing were “absolutely false.”
The Tribune reported on other cases in which arrests at the border were questioned and charges were dropped. Martinez said he dropped the charges due to uncertainty over whether DPS arrests pass legal muster. In September, a man from Venezuela crossed the Rio Grande near Del Rio with a married couple and approached an open gate attended by state troopers. Martinez said officers moved aside to let the migrants pass and then arrested the single man for trespassing. The couple was referred to Border Patrol. The case was dropped after Martinez’s office reviewed body cam footage.
Abbott’s “catch and jail” border initiative has resulted in thousands of trespassing arrests. Martinez’s office has dismissed over 100.
The high-profile crackdown followed a Border Security Summit hosted by Abbott in Del Rio where he announced a new comprehensive border security plan to deal with illegal border crossings in Texas. The Washington Post reported the initiative has since overwhelmed the criminal justice system at Texas’s southern border.
Hundreds of migrants have been detained in repurposed state prisons without formal charges. The Post reported so many have been held in limbo that they legally must be released. Prosecutors are facing unprecedented caseloads given the high number of daily arrests for crimes such as trespassing. Alarmed defense attorneys accused Texas of creating a “separate and unequal” legal system for undocumented immigrants who are deprived of due process.