The Texas Tribune reported yesterday that Greg Abbott has transferred 150 prison guards from already understaffed prison units to the Dolph Briscoe Unit in Dilley, TX as part of Abbott’s foray into “immigration enforcement.”
Briscoe was chosen by Abbott to serve as an immigrant warehouse for those migrants targeted and captured by Texas DPS and sheriff’s offices in South Texas for whatever crimes Abbott wants them charged with. What authority Abbott has to do any of this is murky.
A spokesperson for the governor said Tuesday that the prison-turned-jail will only detain adult males charged with a state crime, without specifying the type of crimes. But the governor’s office said TDCJ is still “in the process of determining any changes or training needed to operate and house individuals at the Briscoe Unit.” The Texas Commission on Jail Standards’ executive director said Friday the agency was in the same process.
In Texas, jails primarily hold criminal defendants accused, but not convicted, of state crimes while their cases are resolved in local court and pursued by county prosecutors. State prisons incarcerate those who have been convicted of state felonies. It’s unclear which courts would hear the criminal cases of immigrants detained at Briscoe, or who would prosecute the cases.
I expect Abbott, DPS and border sheriffs will be whining at President Biden for free money to fund this bigoted debacle. Because Biden continues some immigrant warehousing ventures, it is something on which to keep an eye. Don’t be surprised if more funding and resources is demanded at the Texas Lege special session.
It is not surprising that Abbott, sheriffs, and DAs that support this from both parties would attempt to prosecute migrants for “trespassing” while they are escaping poverty and violence, as well as exploitation by smugglers and employers who may be involved. Abbott and republicans certainly are not seeking solutions to root causes of migration.
The Trib story goes into Texas’ severely understaffed prisons, but analysis on my part would require an investigation into who is in these prisons and why, as well as investigating overzealous DAs seeking impressive win-loss records for political purposes. And that’s a whole other story. For now, this story is really about Greg Abbott’s thirst for white supremacist policies which warehouse humans for political purposes.