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Texas Judge Allows Release of Migrants Arrested After Border Stampede

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A judge in El Paso, Texas, on Sunday ordered the release of migrants accused of being involved in a “border riot” that overwhelmed National Guard troops along the Rio Grande earlier this month, according to a local media report.

Videos shared on social media showed a “riot” of asylum seekers attempting to illegally enter the United States from Mexico at the El Paso border on March 21. A reporter who documented the scene described the Texas National Guard as being “overrun by migrants” who pushed their way past a border fence and the soldiers before the situation was controlled.

Crossings at the southwest land border in Texas totaled 68,260 in January, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data—a drop from the 149,806 migrants who entered in December, but still among the highest rates in the country. In response to the surge, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott and other conservative officials have attempted to enact their own immigration laws that would allow for the arrest, detainment and removal of suspected illegal immigrants. However, those efforts continue to be litigated.

On Sunday, Magistrate Judge Humberto Acosta handed down his ruling during an online teleconference bond hearing where he chided the El Paso District Attorney’s Office for not being ready to proceed with detention hearings for some of the defendants who were arrested in the border incident, the El Paso Times reported, noting that another hearing for additional defendants is slated for Monday.

“It is the ruling of the court is that all the rioting participation cases will be released on their own recognizance,” Acosta said, according to the local newspaper.

Newsweek reached out via email Sunday night to the El Paso County Courts for comment and an update.

Texas Judge Releases Migrants
Venezuelan migrants are forced to retreat by members of the Texas National Guard and highway police who stand guard on the banks of the Rio Grande on March 22, 2024. A Texas judge ordered the…


HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP/Getty

The arrests were made by the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS) in connection with a March 21 incident where a group of migrants — mostly men from Venezuela —ripped down razor wire along the Rio Grande and rushed the border fence.

Newsweek reached out via email on Sunday to the TDPS and the El Paso District Attorney’s Office for comment.

While it is unclear at the time of publication exactly how many migrants were arrested in connection to the border riot, Acosta said that “hundreds of arrestees” were entitled to individual detention hearings within 48 hours. It was also unclear if Acosta’s ruling applied only to those charged with “riot participation” and not those accused of assault or criminal mischief related to the border stampede.

A request by Assistant District Attorney Ashley M. Martinez to hold the hearings at a later date was denied by the judge, according to the El Paso Times.

“So, if the DA’s office is telling me that they are not ready to go, what we’re going to do is we’re going to release all these individuals on their own recognizance,” Acosta said.

In response to the border riot, Abbott wrote in a March 30 post on X, formerly Twitter: “More than 700 National Guard troops surged to El Paso after migrants breached razor wire barrier. That includes 200 Soldiers of the Texas Tactical Border Force deployed to El Paso this past week. Mission: Hold the line & deny illegal entry.”