Texas’ Costly ‘Operation Lone Star’ Leaves Alleged Illegal Immigrants Trapped in Jail with No Due Process

“Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s border-control crusade is overwhelming court systems, leaving detainees stuck in jails for weeks or even months without due process, and generally isn’t resulting in many convictions.
Abbott launched “Operation Lone Star” in March. Border enforcement is ordinarily the federal government’s job, but Abbott decided to deploy the state’s Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to “deny Mexican Cartels and other smugglers the ability to move drugs and people into Texas.”

Instead, according to media reports from multiple outlets, suspected illegal immigrants caught at the border are being arrested for misdemeanor trespassing and then being held in jail. And then…nothing, frequently. The Wall Street Journal reports that only 3 percent of the 1,500 people who have been arrested under Operation Lone Star have been convicted, all with guilty pleas of misdemeanor trespassing.

Texas does not have the authority to deport any of these people, so the rest are either still detained in jail or being released back into the community—the very outcome Abbott insists he was trying to stop.”

“Lacking any ability to deport these immigrants and apparently not being able to charge most of them with crimes other than trespassing and some property crimes (because they likely are not the drug cartel smugglers and human traffickers Abbott claims they are), many of them are just sitting in pretrial detention for weeks or months. Normally a person arrested in Texas for a nonviolent misdemeanor would be released or out on bail quickly, in a matter of days at most. That’s not happening here.”

“Meanwhile the courts on these border counties are being overwhelmed. Texas Monthly reports that Kinney County (population: 3,659), the ground zero for a lot of these arrests, hasn’t had a jury trial in seven years. Kinney officials have filed charges against those they’ve detained, more than 1,000 migrants, but it’s not entirely clear how they’ll be able to arrange trials.

Abbott’s crusade comes with costs, and they’re considerable. Abbott shifted $250 million dollars from elsewhere in the budget (including the prison system itself) to fund this program. And the state legislature directed another $3 billion his way for border enforcement. Officials in Kinney County calculate that actually prosecuting all these immigrants will cost them $5 million, but Operation Lone Star’s funding is sending only $3.19 million their way, according to Texas Monthly.”

How California’s bizarre recall system could elect a Republican governor

“The first question voters will see on the ballot: Should Governor Newsom be recalled? Voters get to answer yes or no.

The second question: If Newsom is recalled, who should be his replacement? Here voters are presented with 46 candidates (Republicans, Democrats, and others) — but not Newsom. Mail-in voting has already begun, and in-person voting will take place September 14.

Here’s where it gets bizarre. Newsom needs to win a majority of the vote to stay in office. If he fails to get that majority, his replacement can win merely by being the top-vote getter in a crowded field. Two recent polls have shown conservative talk radio host Larry Elder (R) in first place with 23 percent of the vote — a small plurality that could still make him governor if Newsom loses the recall question.”

“in theory, the recall process is all about giving more power to the people so they can boot out politicians they think need to go. Who could be against that? But the devil’s in the details about just who “the people” happen to be, and how that choice is structured.

For one, to get the recall on the ballot, activists needed to meet a relatively low signature threshold: 12 percent of the voters who turned out in the last governor’s election. Even in a deep-blue state like California, 38 percent of voters backed Newsom’s GOP opponent last time around, so with the proper shoe leather and funding, that wasn’t a very hard threshold to meet.

Turnout is another issue. The nature of a recall means it’s an election that happens at an odd time, and oddly-timed elections can have a different electorate, in which those who are more fired up are more likely to turn out. So in practice, what the recall can do is give an impassioned minority of voters a chance at scoring an unexpected victory, due to low turnout from the less-engaged majority.”

“The handling of the replacement candidates is also unusual because, unlike in typical elections, there are no primaries beforehand in which the field is sorted. So this time around there are 24 Republican candidates, 9 Democrats, and 13 others from third parties or with no party preference. With only a plurality necessary to win if Newsom loses the recall question, and no runoff, this poses the possibility that someone with a small slice of the vote would end up governor. This thrills conservatives, since a conservative candidate would have little chance of winning a typical two-candidate California election.

Another feature of the system takes away one possible choice from voters: Newsom is prohibited from appearing as a replacement candidate. That creates the strange asymmetry where Newsom needs a majority on the recall question to stay in office, but his replacement does not need a majority to be elected.”

The Texas GOP’s border wall fantasy

“It’s also not clear whether Abbott can use disaster funds to pay for the wall under Texas state law. He declared a disaster for 34 counties in the state last month due to a recent increase in unauthorized immigration at the border, freeing up resources to deal with the problem and allowing him to suspend state laws and regulations that would impede any solutions.”

“the current levels of unauthorized immigration might not truly constitute a “disaster.” While officials reported that the number of migrant apprehensions at the border in May was nearly eight times the total in the same month last year, that doesn’t necessarily mean the actual number of migrants trying to cross the border is higher.
Those numbers don’t account for the fact that there has been a surge in adults who have been caught trying to cross the border multiple times due to policies enacted during the pandemic. In 2020, 26 percent of migrants apprehended by Border Patrol had been caught more than once, compared to 7 percent the previous year.”

““A governor should not be able to circumvent the legislative process by declaring such matters to be emergencies and then implementing whatever measures he wishes,” state Rep. John Turner (D-Dallas), told the Texas Tribune. “If a governor can commence such a long-term, multi-hundred-million-dollar public works project under the cover of emergency powers, it is difficult to know what the limits of those powers are.””

“Abbott’s plans to arrest migrants at the border on various criminal charges, including trespassing and vandalism, would also likely face legal challenges if implemented.

Abbott has threatened to put such migrants “in jail for a long time,” but legal precedent isn’t on his side: The Supreme Court prevented Arizona Republicans in 2012 from similarly arresting migrants on trespassing charges, on the basis that states cannot enforce immigration law. It’s possible, however, that the 2012 ruling could be overturned with several new Trump-appointed justices on the Court.”

“Abbott and the Texas GOP’s embrace of a border wall seems to be part of their strategy for the 2022 midterm elections. Abbott is also up for reelection in 2022, but some have also suggested he could be setting up a run for president in 2024.

The Texas Republicans appear to be trying to appeal to their right-wing base in order to fend off potential primary challengers. There isn’t much concern about Democrats launching a serious offense in the general given that the party’s promises of Texas turning blue didn’t come to fruition in 2020.

Republicans in the state have also recently passed legislation aiming to fire up their base that removed the requirement of a permit to carry a handgun and established an effective ban on abortion. And Abbott’s agenda for an upcoming special session of the state legislature involves more items related to border security, restrictions on voting, and preventing the teaching of critical race theory in schools.”

“while there has been pushback from border counties and Democratic officials, the majority of Republican voters in Texas do support building the wall: about 74 percent, according to a recent survey by the Dallas Morning News and UT Tyler.”

Alabama governor says ‘it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks’ as pandemic worsens

“Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued an impassioned plea for residents of her state to get vaccinated against Covid-19, arguing it was “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks” for the disease’s continued spread.

“I want folks to get vaccinated. That’s the cure. That prevents everything,” Ivey, a Republican, told reporters in Birmingham, Ala., on Thursday.”

“Alabama remains the state with perhaps the lowest vaccination rate in the country, according to the CDC: Only 39.6 percent of its residents 12 and older have been fully vaccinated, compared to the 48.8 percent of Americans nationally who have gotten their shots.”

“The Delta variant now represents more than 83 percent of the virus circulating in the United States, according to the CDC, and unvaccinated people account for 97 percent of coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths nationally.”

The end of the imperial governorship

“One of the first things on the agenda this year for Kentucky Republicans was figuring out how to kneecap Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. They dropped legislation in January that placed new limits on the governor’s emergency executive powers, quickly passed the bill, overrode his veto and then fought him in court.

In the months that have followed, lawmakers across the country — from Maine to California, Oregon to Florida — have proposed and, in many cases, passed similar measures to curtail the sweeping powers bestowed on their state executives.”

“Most governors insisted throughout the crisis that they were being guided by evolving science and trying to navigate uncertain terrain as best they could. But patience appears to have worn out for many legislators consigned to the backseat.”

“In some states, it has been a continuation of philosophical differences that have played out over the course of the still-ongoing pandemic. That dynamic has been particularly evident in places sporting Democratic governors contending with GOP-controlled statehouses like Kentucky, Kansas and Michigan, where conservative outrage over Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s pandemic mandates put her in physical danger last year.

But for other governors, it has been members of their own party who have been the ones trying to wrestle back control and deliver emphatic rebukes of their state’s leadership, as was the case in New York and Ohio last month.”

“Generally speaking, however, the GOP has tilted far more toward limiting what governors are allowed to do by law than Democrats to date.”

Coronavirus vs. Governors: Ranking the Best and Worst State Leaders

“On March 14, Stitt tweeted a picture of his family eating at a restaurant, as if he deserved an award for defying the coronavirus panic. “It’s packed tonight!” he enthusiastically shared, but facing blowback, later deleted the post.

The next day, Stitt declared a state of emergency. Then, the day after that, the governor’s spokesman said, “the governor will continue to take his family out to dinner and to the grocery store without living in fear, and encourages Oklahomans to do the same.” Stitt still has not issued a statewide stay-at-home order. In the absence of one, major Oklahoma cities have imposed their own over the past few days.

Two weeks later, Oklahoma’s rate of infection is intensifying, and testing is minimal. Stitt is not the only governor who has hesitated to implement stiff restrictions, but he may become a case study of the pitfalls of glib social media use in a time of crisis.”