Migrants already jailed for months under Texas' border scheme may see even lengthier detention

Is it really possible that Texas’ Greg Abbott’s legally dubious border scheme locking up hundreds of migrants for weeks and months at a time without any charges could get even worse? Unfortunately, yes. Horrifically, despicably, reprehensibly, yes. The Texas Tribune reports that over 90 migrants who were in Texas custody on trespassing charges saw their court dates get axed after the judge overseeing the hearings tested positive for COVID-19. The report said that roughly a third of these men have already been detained for as long as three months, with no word on when their hearings will be scheduled. “They’re in limbo,” attorney Amrutha Jindal told The Texas Tribune. “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.”  Not that Greg Abbott cares in the least. The right-wing governor has been a great friend to COVID-19, blocking local vaccine mandates through executive action, and just this week helping partially block a federal vaccine mandate for health workers. That was through a lawsuit launched by the very corrupt Ken Paxton and a number of other pro-pandemic Republican attorneys general. If the virus means that asylum-seekers and other migrants could now be detained for even longer, it couldn’t work out any better for Abbott (not counting deportation, which is what he really prefers for them). Meanwhile, detained men “were crushed” over the canceled hearings, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid attorney, Kristin Etter, told The Texas Tribune. With many facing lengthy detention times, Etter said the court hearings were “something that they’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and to not only tell them that our court date is canceled but also that we have no idea when it’s going to get reset ... it’s hard.” Attorney said they continue to work to have the men released on bond. Human Rights Watch late last month said that more than 1,500 migrants, including several children, have been arrested and detained under Abbott’s scheme. The human rights organization has been among those calling on the Justice Department to intervene and “act swiftly” to halt the operation. Rep. Joaquin Castro has led a similar effort among lawmakers. “Many of those arrested have been held for weeks or months without having any charges filed against them and without bail, court hearings, or access to counsel,” the human rights group said. “Attorneys told Human Rights Watch they have needed to file habeas petitions to get Texas officials to follow the law and release them. Additionally, Texas authorities have engaged in the discriminatory practice of detaining migrants in state prisons instead of local jails where people accused of a crime are normally held prior to sentencing.” “Attorneys representing detained migrants said they are aware of at least six children who are currently imprisoned under the policy,” Human Rights Watch continued. “Though Texas law permits trying 17-year-olds as adults, under U.S. law, important special protections are supposed to apply to children who are unaccompanied migrants.” But Abbott has already made clear he’s perfectly fine with using asylum-seeking children for his political gain.

Migrants already jailed for months under Texas' border scheme may see even lengthier detention

Is it really possible that Texas’ Greg Abbott’s legally dubious border scheme locking up hundreds of migrants for weeks and months at a time without any charges could get even worse? Unfortunately, yes. Horrifically, despicably, reprehensibly, yes.

The Texas Tribune reports that over 90 migrants who were in Texas custody on trespassing charges saw their court dates get axed after the judge overseeing the hearings tested positive for COVID-19. The report said that roughly a third of these men have already been detained for as long as three months, with no word on when their hearings will be scheduled.

“They’re in limbo,” attorney Amrutha Jindal told The Texas Tribune. “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.” 

Not that Greg Abbott cares in the least. The right-wing governor has been a great friend to COVID-19, blocking local vaccine mandates through executive action, and just this week helping partially block a federal vaccine mandate for health workers. That was through a lawsuit launched by the very corrupt Ken Paxton and a number of other pro-pandemic Republican attorneys general. If the virus means that asylum-seekers and other migrants could now be detained for even longer, it couldn’t work out any better for Abbott (not counting deportation, which is what he really prefers for them).

Meanwhile, detained men “were crushed” over the canceled hearings, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid attorney, Kristin Etter, told The Texas Tribune. With many facing lengthy detention times, Etter said the court hearings were “something that they’ve been looking forward to for a long time, and to not only tell them that our court date is canceled but also that we have no idea when it’s going to get reset ... it’s hard.” Attorney said they continue to work to have the men released on bond.

Human Rights Watch late last month said that more than 1,500 migrants, including several children, have been arrested and detained under Abbott’s scheme. The human rights organization has been among those calling on the Justice Department to intervene and “act swiftly” to halt the operation. Rep. Joaquin Castro has led a similar effort among lawmakers.

“Many of those arrested have been held for weeks or months without having any charges filed against them and without bail, court hearings, or access to counsel,” the human rights group said. “Attorneys told Human Rights Watch they have needed to file habeas petitions to get Texas officials to follow the law and release them. Additionally, Texas authorities have engaged in the discriminatory practice of detaining migrants in state prisons instead of local jails where people accused of a crime are normally held prior to sentencing.”

“Attorneys representing detained migrants said they are aware of at least six children who are currently imprisoned under the policy,” Human Rights Watch continued. “Though Texas law permits trying 17-year-olds as adults, under U.S. lawimportant special protections are supposed to apply to children who are unaccompanied migrants.” But Abbott has already made clear he’s perfectly fine with using asylum-seeking children for his political gain.