TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas — A Travis County judge ruled Thursday that the arrest of a man as part of Gov. Greg Abbott's controversial "Operation Lone Star" violated the U.S. Constitution and ordered the man's case dismissed.
It's a potentially significant development for the initiative along the Texas-Mexico border as attorneys say this now opens a path for others charged with trespassing to fight their arrests.
The issue focused on whether Abbott's initiative violates the U.S. Constitution by having State enforcement of federal immigration laws. Travis County Judge Jan Soifer heard the case of Jesus Alberto Guzman Curipoma, an engineer from Ecuador who was arrested in September and charged with criminal trespassing.
Curipoma's attorney, Angelica Cogliano, argued that Operation Lone Star was in violation of federal law with its goal to usurp federal immigration law, subjecting Curipoma to an unlawful immigration scheme. The attorney also argued that Curipoma should have been considered for asylum, as is within anyone's rights, but was jailed instead.
"The Texas government is restraining the liberty of thousands under the guise of criminal trespass prosecutions in an attempt to usurp federal immigration legislation and strong arm the federal government into enacting policies that Gov. Abbott would prefer," the filing in the case of Guzman Curipoma said.
The following day, Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted, "I'll fight this nonsense on appeal."
Because the challenge was filed in Travis County, prosecutors from District Attorney Jose Garza's office represented the State. In a filing Wednesday night, the prosecutors said they agree that the operation violates federal law.
"Prosecution for criminal trespass as part of Operation Lone Star violates the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and represents an impermissible attempt to intrude on federal immigration policy," Garza's response said. “In addition, DA’s office concluded that based on the evidence, there were multiple ways in which the OLS program has failed to satisfy basic, fundamental, and procedural state and federal constitutional safeguards.”
Attorney David A. Schulman represented the State, specifically Kinney County. He argued that the case should be heard in Kinney County since that is where the arrest happened, and shouldn't be heard by a Travis County judge. Shulman also argued there was no evidence that Curipoma's arrest was in relation to Operation Lone Star.
Abbott unveiled Operation Lone Star in March 2021, saying he was deploying thousands of Texas Department of Public Safety officers and Texas National Guard troops to the southern border amid a sharp increase in immigrants crossing from Mexico illegally or seeking asylum.
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