EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — In all-white jail jumpsuits, 17 undocumented immigrants stood side-by-side outside the Kinney County Sheriff’s Office before being booked in early August.
The migrants, all men, were arrested as part of Operation Lone Star, a program Gov. Greg Abbott launched to combat what he called the smuggling of people and drugs into Texas.
Launched on March 6, Operation Lone Star sent Department of Public Safety troopers and the Texas National Guard to “high-threat” areas along the border.
In June, Abbott said he would work with local officials to arrest anyone who enters the state illegally and trespasses. In July, Texas began arresting migrants on trespassing charges along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Among those jailed were Ivan Ruano Nava and David Muñoz Vega. According to their lawyers, the Mexican men were arrested on suspicion of trespassing in Val Verde County and held for 50 days.
On Tuesday, however, the state of Texas dropped misdemeanor charges against two migrant fathers.
They are not alone. According to NBC News, more than 200 people jailed under Operation Lone Star are being released.
Grassroots Leadership and Just Futures Law, who represented both men, argued that the State of Texas could not provide witnesses and evidence to back up the trespassing charges.
During Tuesday’s hearing in the 63rd District Court in Val Verde County, Texas, defense attorneys argued that the state engaged in unconstitutional acts of selective prosecution and unlawful detention.
Calling it the first victory of its kind, lawyers on Tuesday said the ruling exposed the “systematically racist, abusive, and unconstitutional nature of the program.”
“Ivan Nava and David Muñoz are just two of hundreds of men who have been targeted and abused by Governor Abbott’s unlawful Operation Lone Star,” Kevin Herrera, staff attorney for Just Futures Law, said in a news release. “After today’s court ruling, we are moving forward to secure the men’s immediate release from Texas Jail and to assure that they are not detained by federal authorities. Operation Lone Star relies on racial profiling and systemically violates due process. We demand DHS halt any of our clients to ICE or CBP, and that DHS cease any collaboration with this unconstitutional program.”
On Tuesday, Abbott said DPS and the Texas National Guard are taking unprecedented steps to ensure the safety of Texas communities and secure the border.
“Illegal immigrants caught trespassing into Texas will be arrested & sent to jail,” Abbott tweeted.