Mass Arrests of Migrants for Illegal Border Crossing by Texas Grand Jury

Just one day after a county judge dismissed the charges, an El Paso County grand jury indicted 141 migrants on misdemeanor rioting charges last week in connection to a mass attempt to breach the southern border on April 12.

El Paso County Judge Ruben Morales last Monday threw out the charges, agreeing with the public defender representing the 141 migrants who argued that the prosecution lacked probable cause in the case.

El Paso Public Defender Kelli Childress-Diaz also accused the district attorney’s office of bringing the charges to make headlines.

Following the grand jury’s decision, El Paso County District Attorney Bill Hicks said a grand jury made up of citizens of the county “essentially overruled” Judge Morales’ ruling by determining that there was “probable cause to believe that the riots did occur.”

Childress-Diaz told reporters that she wasn’t surprised at the indictment and suggested that the district attorney’s office probably had it prepared before last Monday’s hearing took place.

The April 12 riot followed a similar incident on March 21 when a group of mostly Venezuelan migrants were captured on video storming a border fence along the Rio Grande and attacking members of the Texas National Guard.

Officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety arrested the men but an El Paso magistrate judge later ordered their release, saying that the district attorney’s office failed to prepare for separate detention hearings for each of the defendants.

Following the March 21 incident, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that he would send another 700 Texas National Guardsmen to the El Paso sector.

District Attorney Hicks said while it is uncommon for a grand jury to be empaneled for misdemeanor charges, he believed that it was fair to have a grand jury hear the evidence in this particular case.

According to the district attorney, since March, more than 350 migrants have been arrested on rioting charges.

If convicted, each defendant could face a fine of $2,000 and 180 days in jail.