By Sandy Malone and Holly Matkin
Austin, TX – The Texas governor on Thursday ordered the National Guard and state police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants and return them to the U.S.-Mexico border for deportation.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott authorized Texas National Guard soldiers and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers on July 7 to take illegal immigrants into custody if they encountered them between the country’s ports of entry, the Washington Examiner reported.
Abbott’s executive order directed the guardsman and law enforcement officers to return the detained individuals “to the border.”
The governor said he decided to take swift action after 5,000 non-U.S. citizens were caught illegally crossing into Texas over 4th of July weekend, the Washington Examiner reported.
“While President Biden refuses to do his job and enforce the immigration laws enacted by Congress, the State of Texas is once again stepping up and taking unprecedented action to protect Americans and secure our southern border,” Abbott said in a statement.
The move was expected to draw criticism and legal action from civil rights advocacy groups, the Washington Examiner reported.
Only federal law enforcement officers, and local officers granted federal authority, may legally arrest suspects for immigration offenses such as illegally crossing the border into the United States.
The Texas governor may be trying to circumvent that issue by ordering guardsman and state troopers to simply detain and return suspects to the border, rather than attempting to charge them with a crime, the Washington Examiner reported.
The courts may still consider it a Fourth Amendment violation to detain people without probable cause and then transport them to another location, regardless if there are criminal charges.
Experts said Abbott’s tactics would outrage immigrants rights activists.
The governor’s executive order was announced just one week after a frustrated Texas sheriff loaded up his vehicle with migrants and personally drove them back to the border to deport them.
Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe said his deputies apprehended five illegal immigrants on June 29, all of whom needed to be medically cleared due to U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) policy before the federal agency would detain them, FOX News reported.
The group had been traveling inside a suspected smuggling vehicle that was involved in a crash during a pursuit, The Epoch Times reported.
One of the illegal immigrants was transported to a hospital, but the other four were uninjured and refused to be examined by emergency medical personnel, Sheriff Coe told FOX News.
As a result, Kinney County deputies would have needed to take them all to the hospital – located 35 miles away – to be medically cleared before USBP would take custody of them.
Sheriff Coe said he has just six full-time deputies, and two would be tied up indefinitely while dealing with the four illegal immigrants at the hospital.
“I don’t have the resources right now to tie up two deputies…in an emergency room for people that aren’t complaining of any type of injury, tying up medical staff, and having to wait two or three hours for them to be medically cleared,” he told FOX News.
The sheriff said that taking so many personnel off the streets could also potentially place his county’s residents at risk.
“I’ll always place the safety of the residents of Kinney County, the residents of Texas, above the comfort of anybody that’s illegally entered this country,” he told FOX News. “My job is, as an elected official in Kinney County, is to protect these people. And that’s my job and that’s what I will continue to do until further notice.”
Sheriff Coe ultimately loaded up the four illegal immigrants that his deputies had apprehended and drove them back to the U.S.-Mexico border himself.
“Anyone or anything we catch walking the highway or in smuggling endeavor, we can roll over to Border Patrol,” the sheriff told FOX News. “But because of the Biden administration and policies that are being put into place by the administration, I didn’t have any resources but to take [them] back myself.”
He dropped them off in the center of the international bridge, The Epoch Times reported.
“I can’t let them walk the streets,” Sheriff Coe told the news outlet. “I can’t say, ‘Hey, go, be free.’ Because I still have to protect the Constitution and protect the people in the county…To let them go, undocumented, unaccounted for, just go because of a policy — I couldn’t do it.”
The driver of the suspected smuggling vehicle that crashed was arrested on seven felony charges, The Epoch Times reported.
Sheriff Coe said he was a Mexican national and that he was wearing cartel-linked insignia.
“It’s just all part of [the Biden] administration that they’re not enforcing the border laws, the immigration laws,” he told FOX News. “Things like this are going to continue to happen – the kidnappings, the pursuits, placing the general population in danger.”
The surge of illegal immigrants has also impacted local residents in other ways, according to the sheriff.
“Groups are walking through watermelon pastures, tearing at the watermelon… The torn-out fences, the broken water lines, the windows that have been damaged,” Sheriff Coe told FOX News. “One of the local ranchers has spent 40, 50, $60,000 in the past year repairing his fences to keep his cattle and his livestock.”
In some areas, groups walking through have kicked up so much dust that watermelon crops aren’t able to pollinate and are being destroyed, he said.
The sheriff said that driving illegal immigrants back to Mexico is “going to be the exception, rather than the rule,” The Epoch Times reported.
“But at the same time, if Border Patrol won’t take a group for whatever reason, I don’t have a choice,” he added.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas was outraged by Sheriff Coe’s actions and demanded his office hand over “any and all information regarding the Kinney County Sheriff’s Office transporting or sending individuals whom the Sheriff’s Office believes or suspects to be migrants to Mexico.”