Three weeks after a Texas prison began housing illegal aliens charged with state crimes, the first “confinees” have already served their time. What U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does with them will determine whether Gov. Greg Abbott’s stepped-up law enforcement program is an effective deterrent, or just another version of catch and release.
Pleading guilty to criminal trespassing, nine Venezuelan migrants were released for time served (15 days). ICE officers escorted them out of jail on Thursday, but the agency has not said what will happen next.
“[ICE] could just release them and ask them to report at a later date in whatever city they’re going to live, or they could send them to detention,” said attorney Kat Russell. Either way, deportation may be a long shot.
Though criminal convictions can lead to removal, asylum claims, likely in the Venezuelans’ case, can be a get-out-of-jail-free card under the Biden administration’s constantly evolving interpretations of immigration law. The ever-helpful American Civil Liberties Union has opined that arresting migrants on local and state charges could interfere with the constitutional right to seek asylum.
Brent Smith, prosecutor in Kinney County, a border county in the heavily trafficked Del Rio sector, says 15-day sentences won’t deter criminally minded illegal aliens. “That’s only slowing down the revolving door. It’s not stopping it,” he said.
Under border emergencies declared by two-dozen South Texas counties, state and local law enforcement officers can arrest migrants for offenses such as trespassing and criminal mischief, with sentences upgraded to a year in jail. Abbott said Texas would not be complicit in the Biden administration’s “catch and release” policy, and vowed that offenders would do serious time behind bars.
But despite 1,000 additional state police dispatched to the border – along with hundreds of National Guardsmen on loan from other states – actual arrests have been few and jail terms have been minimal. Three weeks after 1,000 beds were designated for illegal aliens at Briscoe detention center in Dilley, only 235 were occupied on Thursday.
To its credit, Texas is at least attempting to do something while the Biden administration does little or nothing to secure the border. But migrant activists are overly dramatic in claiming that “the system is being weaponized against asylum seekers.” Judging by the rapid release of the Venezuela Nine, and the 765 empty bunks at Dilley, the governor’s latest enforcement weapon doesn’t have much ammo.