Lubbock Private Defenders’ Office providing legal assistance for arrested migrants
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Attorneys involved with Governor Abbott’s border security effort Operation Lone Star say they’re having trouble keeping up with the volume of cases.
The Lubbock Private Defenders’ Office is assigning attorneys to migrants arrested under Operation Lone Star, one of Gov. Abbott’s border security efforts designed to deter drug smugglers and criminals from entering the state. Abbott released a disaster declaration back in July which allows migrants to be arrested under state law if they are suspected of crossing illegally.
LPDO is finding that most of the migrants are arrested for misdemeanor trespassing.
“We have seen the felony smuggling cases, but they are much fewer in numbers than the criminal trespass. That’s really the base of the whole project has been criminal trespassing,” LPDO Executive Director Shannon Evans said.
People crossing the border illegally are arrested and put in jail for an average of 63 days waiting to be seen by a judge.
Much of the delay stems from southern counties trying to keep up with large numbers of migrants arrested and put on the docket
So far, LPDO has provided legal representation in over 3900 cases, which nearly all result in the client being passed to Immigration Customs Enforcement.
“Most of the counties are a little overwhelmed with the amount of people that that are waiting,” Evans said.
Evans said when the project began in the summer of ‘21, they recruited around 15 attorneys. They now have 43. The full-time staff went from two people to six, including client advocates.
“Since they are international, the client advocates are pivotal in contacting the families and helping the attorneys stay in contact with the families. A lot of the attorneys still have their own private practice, so keeping up with the international part of it has been a challenge for them,” Evans said.
So far the staffing and software costs have resulted in a $9 million tab with no end to the number of new cases needing to be handled.
As the need grows, Evans said she’s making sure the operation does not take resources from Lubbock’s indigent clients needing an attorney.
“We’ve tried to monitor it closely to ensure that when this project does get of too big of a scale for us to handle, we are going to try to make this a bigger project outside of Lubbock Private Defenders’ Office to ensure the quality of Lubbock representation isn’t diminished,” Evans said.
As the operation continues to grow, Evans says they continue to need attorneys who have experience in the criminal justice system and in immigration.
The operation is remote, mostly handled over Zoom, so any attorney in Texas can assist.
You can learn more about the project at https://www.lpdo.org/projects-8.
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