Two days before Christmas, on the east side of San Antonio, police made a discovery – one that had echoes of earlier incidents involving undocumented immigrants being smuggled into Texas and suffocating in tractor trailers.
This time there were no deaths. The driver of the truck was charged under a state human smuggling law, and the 12 people in the trailer were questioned and released.
Now Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has asked Attorney General Ken Paxton to investigate whether San Antonio police may have violated Texas law.
Jason Buch, a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News, says the investigation stems from a new Texas law that penalizes local officials who interfere with the enforcement of immigration laws.
Buch says the investigation has already begun.
“They’re looking into whether what the Chief did by deciding to use state charges against the driver of this truck, and then eventually releasing the immigrants, violated that new law Senate Bill 4,” Buch says.
Typically in these scenarios, Buch says, the police contact a branch of ICE called Homeland Security Investigations. The chief said the police did that, but decided to use state charges against the driver and release the people who were being smuggled. So, did they in fact break the law?
Buch says San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg is calling the attorney general’s investigation political theater.
“[Nirenberg] said that this is a waste of resources by state officials. He stood by the chief and said the chief had done nothing wrong,” Buch says.
The immigrants who were released are still part of the story, too.
“They stand to get a visa by cooperating in the prosecution of the truck’s driver,” Buch says, “so the advocacy group who is sort of called in to act as an intermediary between them and the police, the head of that group has said he’s still in contact with them. He knows where they are and they do want to participate in the prosecution because they have that chance of getting what’s called a U visa.”
Written by Jen Rice.