Lubbock Private Defenders’ Office provides legal assistance to arrested migrants
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) – Lawyers involved in Governor Abbott’s border security effort, Operation Lone Star, say they are struggling to keep up with the volume of cases.
The Lubbock Private Defenders’ Office assigns attorneys to migrants arrested as part of Operation Lone Star, one of Governor Abbott’s border security efforts to deter drug dealers and criminals from entering the state. Abbott issued a disaster declaration in July that allows migrants to be arrested under state law if they are suspected of crossing illegally.
LPDO finds that most migrants are arrested for trespassing.
“We have seen the cases of criminal smuggling, but they are much lower than the criminal trespassing. It’s really the basis of the whole project that has been criminal intrusion,” said LPDO Executive Director Shannon Evans.
People who cross the border illegally are arrested and imprisoned for an average of 63 days while waiting to be seen by a judge.
Much of the backlog stems from southern counties trying to keep pace with large numbers of arrested and docked migrants
To date, LPDO has provided legal representation in over 3900 cases, almost all of which result in the client being referred to Immigration Customs Enforcement.
“Most counties are a bit overwhelmed with the number of people waiting,” Evans said.
Evans said when the project started in summer 21, they recruited about 15 lawyers. They now have 43. Full-time staff have grown from two to six people, including customer advocates.
“Because they are international, client advocates are essential in reaching out to families and helping lawyers stay connected with families. A lot of lawyers 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, staffing and software costs have resulted in an endless $9 million tab for the number of new cases to be processed.
As the need grows, Evans said she’s making sure the operation doesn’t take the resources of indigent Lubbock clients who need an attorney.
“We have tried to watch it closely to make sure that when this project becomes too big for us, we will try to make it a bigger project outside of the Lubbock Private Defenders office to ensure quality. of Lubbock’s representation is not diminished,” Evans said.
As the operation continues to grow, Evans says they still need attorneys who have experience in the criminal justice system and in immigration.
The operation is remote, mostly handled via Zoom, so any Texas attorney can help.
You can learn more about the project at https://www.lpdo.org/projects-8.
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