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HomeUS HeadlinesMigrants indicted in Texas over alleged border breach after judge dismissed charges

Migrants indicted in Texas over alleged border breach after judge dismissed charges

EL PASO, Texas — A Texas grand jury indicted more than 140 migrants on misdemeanor rioting charges Tuesday over an alleged mass attempt to breach the U.S.-Mexico border, a day after a judge threw out the cases.

No injuries were reported during the alleged breach on April 12 in El Paso, which authorities say began when someone in the group cut through a razor wire barrier. Mass arrests also followed a separate episode in the Texas border city in March.

On Monday, a county judge had thrown out the charges against those who were arrested this month, ruling there was insufficient probable cause. A public defender representing the migrants had argued there was not enough evidence and accused authorities of trying to make headlines.

“The citizens of El Paso, through the grand jury, essentially overruled the judge’s ruling and found probable cause to believe that the riots did occur,” El Paso County District Attorney Bill Hicks told reporters Tuesday.

Kelli Childress-Diaz, the El Paso Public Defender who is representing the 141 defendants, said she wasn’t surprised.

“I imagine they had that already prepared before the hearing even started yesterday,” she said.

The arrests have drawn more attention to Texas’ expanding operations along the border, where Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has rolled out a series of aggressive measures in the name of curbing illegal crossings. Following the arrests in March, Abbott responded by saying he sent 700 additional National Guard members to El Paso.

Hicks, whom Abbott appointed to the job in 2022, said that although it is not common for a grand jury to indict misdemeanor cases, he felt it was “fair” to pose the cases before them. In all, Hicks estimated they had arrested over 350 people on rioting charges since March.

If convicted, those charged could each face up to 180 days in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Those in jail still face federal charges, and Hicks said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could still pick them up from jail to process them on an illegal entry offense.

“It turns my stomach that these people are nothing more than than, you know, political coins in a bet that some of our government officials have hedged,” Childress-Diaz told The Associated Press.

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