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Photo: John Moore/Getty Images.

Members of Congressional Hispanic Caucus call on investigation into separation of migrant fathers

The Latino Democrats penned a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

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In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) called on the Biden administration to investigate Texas regarding a number of alleged human rights violations stemming from local authorities arresting migrant men on accusations of criminal trespassing. 

The lawmakers asked the feds to take action to stop the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) from “intentionally separating migrant families.”

“Governor Abbott has been able to implement Operation Lone Star and act with impunity for more than two years. We urgently call on the Administration to consider what further decisive action they can take to address this alarming situation,” they wrote. 

According to the letter, the state department’s policy of arresting certain migrants for criminal trespassing has resulted in the separation of at least 26 families. 

The lawmakers said they confirmed the practice — which aims to inject local criminal consequences for crossing the U.S.-Mexico border — in a recent caucus tour of the border.

According to the letter first reported by PBS NewsHour, the arrests of migrant men are followed by a series of human rights violations, such as lengthy pretrial detention as well as faulty legal advice.

“For example, CHC members learned, that migrants were being told that they could either wait 6-9 months in jail or, if they want to be reunited with their families, they could plead guilty and get out on bond automatically,” wrote the lawmakers, citing that pretrial detention for class B misdemeanors in the state lasts one to three days.

A guilty plea for any crime can result in the complete ban of an individual from receiving asylum in the U.S. if the crime is not disclosed during the application process, and if an individual is convicted of two misdemeanors, it could make them ineligible for other immigration benefits, such as Temporary Protected Status.

“Since most of these individuals have little to no legal support, they do not understand what they are admitting guilt to or how it will affect their immigration status,” the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers also called on Mayorkas to investigate how DPS detainees are being transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

“After the fathers are incarcerated in state or local facilities, they are then transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, with no reference to the families they have been separated from and placed in expedited removal,” they wrote. “With little to no communication, mothers and children are traumatized and left wondering what happened to their loved ones.”

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