The great unifying sin of Gov. Greg Abbott’s tenure is that, of course, he knows better.

This is a man who served as a state Supreme Court justice and Texas’ longtime attorney general before ascending to the governor’s office. He knows it’s blatantly unconstitutional to arrest people and not provide representation or due process for weeks on end.

One doesn’t have to be an attorney to know and understand this, but for a public official with Abbott’s legal pedigree, the failure to honor due process is galling.

In launching Operation Lone Star and creating a new legal system to detain immigrants on state trespassing charges, Abbott has blatantly disregarded constitutional rights at the altar of political expedience found in anti-immigrant posturing.

Regardless of one’s feelings about immigration and border security — whether the federal government is doing its job (comprehensive reform is long overdue), or a border wall is necessary (it is not), whether Dreamers should have a pathway to citizenship (they should), or the application of Title 42 under the Trump and Biden administrations is a moral failure (it is) — all Texans should be concerned about Abbott’s jailing of immigrants because it is an assault on due process and civil liberties.

Hundreds of immigrants have been detained for weeks on trespassing charges without representation, violating state law and overwhelming county justice systems, all while undercutting federal due process. Immigration is a federal issue.

As the Texas Tribune has reported, those facing criminal charges in Texas must be assigned counsel within three days of asking for an attorney. Prosecutors must also file charges within 15 to 30 days in typical trespassing cases. But these basic standards are not being met.

In rural Kinney County, where the vast majority of immigrants have been detained, the Texas Tribune reported, there aren’t enough local defense attorneys to take cases. Meanwhile, prosecutors have been slow to file charges, and The Washington Post has reported that non-English speaking detainees were asked to sign documents to decline representation. These documents were not in their native language.

In an example of how flawed this “system” is, about 250 migrants who were detained for more than a month without charges were recently released, thanks to the efforts of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.

Since its launch in March, Operation Lone Star has resulted in 6,000 arrests on charges ranging from trespassing to smuggling and human trafficking, state officials have said. To make room for these defendants, the state has converted prison space at the Briscoe Unit in Dilley and Segovia Unit in Edinburg, The Washington Post has reported.

But, clearly, the system isn’t prepared for this type of influx and capacity. If it were, detainees would be represented, not languishing in jail waiting for charges.

For example, the Lubbock Private Defenders Office, a fabulous model for indigent defense, has been asked to help appoint attorneys. But Lubbock is nowhere near the border, and the outfit is too small to take on so many cases. To provide legal representation would cost millions in addition to housing costs — and after disposition of these trespassing cases, the migrants are sent to federal authorities for processing.

At best, Abbott’s system is duplicative and costly. At worst, it is a violation of due process that plays to fears of migrants.

Like so many other politicians, Abbott, through his efforts to build a wall, rhetoric and willingness to cast aside due process, is invested (through taxpayer dollars) in the fight over immigration, not in solutions that balance security and economic concerns with human dignity.

• San Antonio Express-News editorial board via The Associated Press

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(17) comments

Charles Douglas

!!!! VIVA ABBOTT!!!! Keep up the good work Gov, somebody has to protect, and care about this country!!! If not ABBOTT then who,...the one who cuts-and-run from the Taliban & ISIS,... leaving thousands of Americans to die?

I admire ABBOTT for standing up for us while we have a bunch of Communist/Socialist operatives running the Federal Government in DC .. selling us out to Russia, Iran, and China, depriving us of 1st Amendment rights, threatening school parents, & locking up Lt. Colonels for speaking the truth! Those three rogue nations are like Killer Sharks in water smelling BLOOD now! They like sharks,.. are circling their prey,...only instead of blood.. these three rogue nations smells FEAR & WEAKNESS in DC!

Carlos Ponce

"He knows it’s blatantly unconstitutional to arrest people and not provide representation or due process for weeks on end." Interesting... that's exactly what the Biden administration is doing.

Lisa Windsor

I’m interested in who exactly the Biden Administration has arrested but not provided representation or due process.

Carlos Ponce

Many arrested for events in the January 6th protest were arrested and not provided representation or due process.

Carlos Ponce

Retired Lt. Cmdr Thomas Caldwell:

Facts in the case: Caldwell didn't go inside the Capitol but spent 49 days in solitary confinement in prison. The Biden administration said he was Commander of the Oath Keepers. Not a commander of Oath Keepers, not even a member of Oath Keepers. The Liberal news reports that he was is FAKE NEWS. Yet, a SWAT team was dispatched to arrest him.

Here's a typical article:

"Navy veteran Thomas Edward Caldwell led a band of the Oath Keepers extremist group to Washington on Jan. 6 to storm the U.S. Capitol, federal prosecutors allege, helping to mastermind a violent plot to stop lawmakers from certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory." New York Times

Jim Forsythe

Sep 17, 2021: Caldwell is charged with the federal crimes of conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, entering and remaining on restricted grounds and tampering with documents or proceedings'. Jury trials set for 1/31/22 at 10 am and 4/4/22 at 10 am.

On December 24, 2020, he responded to a Facebook post by writing, “Driving in with my wife from Berryville VA but am spending night before at Comfort Inn Arlington/Ballston on Glebe Road. Meeting up with Oathkeepers from North Carolina and Patriot group from the Shenandoah Valley.”


On January 1, 2021, he sent a Facebook message to his fellow Oath Keepers member Donovan Crowl recommending a room at the Comfort Inn Ballston for January 5-7, 2021. On the same day, Crowl referred to him as Commander in a Facebook message.

Wearing a combat helmet, ballistic goggles and a tactical vest with a handheld radio, he went to the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., USA on January 6, 2021 with eight other Oath Keepers members including Crowl and Ohio State Regular Militia commanding officer Jessica Watkins. That day, Donald Trump supporters breached the building while a joint session of Congress was certifying the vote of the Electoral College and affirming Joe Biden”s victory in the 2020 presidential election. After the riot, he sent a Facebook message saying, “Us storming the castle. Please share. Sharon was right with me! I am such an instigator! She was ready for it man! Didn’t even mind the tear gas.” In another message, he wrote, “We need to do this at the local level. Lets storm the capitol in Ohio. Tell me when!”

Carlos Ponce

Did he enter the Capitol? NO.

Is he a member of Oath Keepers? NO.

Is he a "commander of Oath Keepers" as reported by Liberal media? NO. He was a Lieutenant Commander of the United States Navy.

Is he a member of Oath Keepers? NO.

Jim is reading too much in what Caldwell allegedly posted.

Jim Forsythe

After the trials are over, it will be decided if he is the lamb or the wolf. Caldwell has posted may things that will make it hard for him not to be found guilty. Jury trials set for 1/31/22 at 10 am and 4/4/22 at 10 am.

Caldwell sent a video on Facebook taken from inside the Capitol. “Us storming the castle. Please share. Sharon was right with me! I am such an instigator! She was ready for it man! Didn’t even mind the tear gas,” Caldwell wrote on the video.

Carlos Ponce

"Caldwell denied ever being in the Capitol Building, and he said he was with people who can testify he never stepped inside. His physical challenges would his stopped him from forcibly entering any building or storming past any barrier."

Carlos Ponce

Jim, even the prosecutors did not charge him with tresspassing as they did others. Ret. Lt. Cmdr Caldwell: Sharon found us our current lawyer, Mr. David Fisher and David Fisher immediately started doing lawyer stuff, like looking for the truth and doing some research.

And when he did that, he went to the government and he said, how about showing me some evidence? And when they couldn't produce it, they immediately changed their position.

[The defense says the government presented no pictures or video showing Caldwell in the Capitol, on the grounds after storming a barrier, around any damaged property, or in either chamber of Congress.]

Sharon Caldwell: I really didn't know what to think. I was so shocked and surprised when the SWAT team shows up at our house and you know, my husband and I went to D.C. on January 6th as husband and wife. I mean, we considered it an outing. You know a couple of days in D.C., just a husband and wife -- I hate to say a fun thing to do -- but you know at that time, you know we didn't even anticipate that there were going to be any riots or anything like that.

So you know, we just wanted to hear the President speak one last time and then, like you said, a few days later, this SWAT team shows up and it is surreal, it's just absolutely surreal, this whole experience.

I still -- I can't -- I cannot believe it -- I never thought in a million years that anything like this would happen to us. I can't even -- you can't even conceive of it and I still wake up some days and I just -- I think, is this really happening? Is this really happening? I just -- it does not seem real and when he was taken away from me, I -- when he didn't come home right away, I mean, I really thought he was going to be bonded out and he'd be home and I knew, okay, we've got to get this straightened out somehow. There must be some misunderstanding.

But, you know, he was still there about two months later, I'm thinking, oh my gosh, I really thought -- I really thought that, you know he is one hundred percent service disabled veteran. He has given everything for this country that he loves and he has serious, serious health issues.

I mean he can hardly walk sometimes. He is in so much chronic pain every single day and I thought I'd never see him again. I thought I'd never see him again. I thought he was going to die in prison. I'm sorry.

Jim Forsythe

From the link you posted.

Caldwell, along with Jessica Watkins, 38, and Donovan Crowl, 50, are each described by federal prosecutors as members of the far-right paramilitary group the Oath Keepers. All three have been indicted in a conspiracy case over the events of Jan. 6th, when Trump supporters raided the Capitol Building. Other people charged over the siege have often described their participation as a spur of the moment decision, usually motivated by then-President Donald Trump‘s call for his followers to go to the Capitol that day. According to the allegations, however, the trio in question planned this ahead of time and knew what they were getting into.

Jury trials set for 1/31/22 at 10 am and 4/4/22 at 10 am. Truth will come out.

Carlos Ponce

"described by federal prosecutors " Of course, Jim. But when pushed they produced NO EVIDENCE of such and had to back off. Just another example of the Biden-Garland inept inJustice Department. I'm glad Merrick Garland NEVER made SCOTUS. He's very political.WHAT AN IDIOT!

Gary Scoggin

I used to say that Abbott was the worst Governor of Texas since Rick Perry. Now I think he’s the worst since Pa Ferguson. And considering that passes over Ann Richards and Dolph Briscoe, that’s a pretty high bar.

Carlos Ponce

You need to study Texas history, Gary Scoggin. Not as bad as Ma and Pa Ferguson, not even close. Definitely better than Granny Annie.

Ted Gillis

You just have to wonder what Abbott’s private conversations sound like with Texas business leaders these days. He must be apologizing and quickly reassuring them that he has their best interests at heart, while on the other hand pandering and saying stupid things to appease right wing wack-a-doodles out in public.

He’s probably suffering from mental whip lash about now.

Jim Forsythe

Edmund Jackson Davis was the worst of all Texas governors. He served starting in 1870.

Davis had his own goon squad called State Police going after enemies. These officers “occasionally murdered individuals for seemingly no reason,” . Historian called Davis’ administration “a carnival of crimes.”

Davis lost his reelection in 1873, but he refused to give up his office. He barricaded himself on the first floor of the Capitol, asking President U.S. Grant for federal troops.

Dan Freeman

Who was Edmund J. Davis? It is true he continues to be branded the worst of all Texas governors by Confederate sympathizers. It is important to remember he was a staunch opponent of secession in support of Governor Sam Houston.

Following the end of the war, Davis became a member of the 1866 Texas Constitutional Convention. He supported the rights of freed slaves.

He created the Texas State Police who were given extraordinary powers by the legislature, which allowed it to work against racially based crimes. This raised violent protest from former slaveowners and future segregationists. Davis created the "State Guard of Texas" and the "Reserve Militia", which were forerunners of the Texas National Guard. The Printing Bill provided an official public printer and a state journal and provided that regional newspapers be designated to print the various required official notices.

The Davis government was marked by a commitment to the civil rights of African Americans. One of his protégés was Norris Wright Cuney of Galveston, who continued the struggle for equality until his own death in 1896 and is honored as one of the important figures in Texas and American black history.

Davis is still considered to have been a hero for the Union Army. He also gained the respect and friendship of Spanish-speaking residents on the Rio Grande frontier.

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