A county judge in Texas dealt a blow to Governor Greg Abbott’s controversial ‘Operation Lone Star’ after ruling his national guard’s apprehension of an illegal immigrant unconstitutional Thursday.
Operation Lone Star was created by Abbott amidst a wave of illegal immigrants from Central America crossing the US-Mexico border. It deploys law enforcement in areas human and drug smugglers are known to use.
The ruling could see the initiative stifled with attorneys saying that it could open a path for other immigrants to challenge their detention.
The decision comes as President Joe Biden has been slammed for his handling of the crisis at the border, which saw a record 1.7 million illegal crossings in fiscal year 2021.
Last November, Customs and Border Protection agents reported 173,620 encounters at the US-Mexico border, up from 164,303 encounters reported in October. The November figure is still down from 192,001 encounters in September and 209,840 in August.
In November 2020 under then-President Donald Trump, there were 72,113 crossings.
The numbers for last month have yet to be released.
Governor Greg Abbott’s (pictured) controversial Operation Lone Star came into question after an arrest that allegedly happened under the program was deemed unconstitutional Thursday
A judge ruled that a man arrested for illegally crossing the border under the law was superceding federal immigration policy and therefor illegal
On Thursday, Judge Jan Soifer ruled in favor of Jesus Alberto Guzman Curipoma, an Ecuadorian engineer arrested in September and charged with criminal trespassing.
Angelica Cogliano, Curipoma’s lawyer, said that Operation Lone Star was unconstitutional because it tries to supersede federal immigration law.
She added that Curipoma was jailed rather than being considered for asylum, which is within his right.
‘The Texas government is restraining the liberty of thousands under the guise of criminal trespass prosecutions in an attempt to usurp federal immigration legislation and strong arm the federal government into enacting policies that Gov. Abbott would prefer,’ Cogliano wrote in a filing.
Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza, acting on behalf of the state, actually agreed with the argument that Operation Lone Star violates federal law.
‘Prosecution for criminal trespass as part of Operation Lone Star violates the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and represents an impermissible attempt to intrude on federal immigration policy,’ District Attorney Garza’s response said.
David A. Schulman filed on behalf of the state in Kinney County, where he argued the case should be heard, because that’s where Curipoma was arrested.
Angelica Cogliano, the attorney for Jesus Alberto Guzman Curipoma, an Ecuadorian engineer arrested in September and charged with criminal trespassing, said her client was not offered asylum, which is within his legal rights.
Abbott’s Operation Lone Star has attempted to stop the flow of asylum-seeking migrants crossing the US-Mexico border
Schulman added that there was no evidence Curipoma’s arrest had anything to do with Operation Lone Star.
Abbott unveiled Operation Lone Star in March 2021, saying he would deploy thousands of Texas Department of Public Safety officers and Texas National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border amid a sharp increase in immigrants crossing from Mexico illegally or seeking asylum.
In its first two months, the Texas DPS made 598 criminal arrests and more than 16,000 referrals of illegal immigrants to the US Customs and Border Protection as part of Operation Lone Star, according to a Valley Central news report.
Late in 2021, Abbott said the operation had resulted in 52,000 illegal immigrants apprehended and 40 disrupted stash houses.
Abbott has also promised to finish former President Donald Trump’s border wall, which had stalled under President Joe Biden.
‘Texas has officially started building its own border wall,’ Abbott tweeted last month.
‘Biden allows open border policies and refuses to enforce laws passed by Congress to secure the border and enforce immigration laws. Texas is stepping up to do the federal government’s job.’
Abbott said that the Texas legislature had allocated $3 billion for the project.
‘Three billion dollars of Texas taxpayer money has been devoted to this cause of Texas securing the border, and so we have a lot of money available to us to continue to build the wall,’ Abbott said, adding, ‘For Texas [this] is going to cost less than it did for the Trump administration for one reason. And that’s because in Texas, unlike the Trump administration, we’re not having to devote money to acquire the land …The state of Texas owns [land] on the border itself.’
Abbott also said, ‘There are property owners of massive acreage on the border who are fed up with Biden’s open border policies, and they are donating their land to Texas for us to be able to use that land for free to build a wall on their property.’
However, Abbott said Texas would try to get the federal government to foot the bill.
‘We are seeking federal government to pay for this and there have been requests made by members of the Texas Congressional Delegation to the federal government for funding to get all of this done,’ Abbott said. ‘Texas will also be bringing legal action against the federal government for the state of Texas to get reimbursed for all the costs we have incurred to do the federal government’s job.’