Texas is reportedly set to release more than 220 migrants who were arrested under GOP Gov. Greg Abbott's "catch and jail" border security policy and sat in prison for more than a month without being charged with a crime.
A state district judge Tuesday granted a motion to release the men on no-cost bonds after defense lawyers challenged the continued imprisonment, citing violations of state law and constitutional rights to due process, the Texas Tribune reported.
Texas law requires criminal defendants be released from jail on no-cost or affordable bond if prosecutors delay cases by not filing charges quickly. For trespassing, the charge on which the vast majority of the migrants were arrested, the deadline is set at 15 or 30 days, depending on the charge level, the Texas Tribune reported.
Kristen Etter, a lawyer with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, told state District Judge Roland Andrade that her organization made an agreement with the Val Verde county attorney to release about 55 defendants who had been jailed without charges for more than 15 days as of Sept. 15, the news outlet reported.
Kinney County prosecutors agreed to release another 168 defendants who had not been charged in 30 days or more.
"I'm glad you all worked out most of these, and hopefully everything will be streamlined a little bit more," Andrade, a Republican, said at the hearing's end, the news outlet reported. "It's a learning experience for everybody, even the court here."
It is unclear what will happen to the men when they are released, the news outlet reported. Federal immigration authorities may choose to take them into custody or deport them, or they may be released to await their criminal and potential immigration proceedings.
The arrests were part of Abbott's new policy to bust migrants accused of crossing the border illegally on state charges, like trespassing, since state police and courts have no jurisdiction over federal immigration law. Abbott has blamed President Joe Biden's immigration policies for a surge in border crossings this year.
So far, about 1,000 men, the majority Latino, have been arrested by Texas state police and accused of trespassing on private property under Abbott's order, the Texas Tribune reported.
As of Monday, more than 900 men were jailed in two Texas prisons converted into state immigration jails this summer, the news outlet reported.
But the system has had problems since arrests first began in July, according to the Texas Tribune.
Migrants have been separated from their families during arrests, men whose criminal cases were dismissed have been released without any federal or state coordination into border towns without any documents, and the justice system has been in violation of state laws in its delays to file charges and appoint lawyers, the Texas Tribune reported.
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