After failing to pass a border security bill during the last special session, Texas lawmakers are sending a wide-ranging bill to the governor’s desk.
The bill grants state authorities the right to arrest and deport migrants, an act previously only undertaken by federal agents – and a right many people believe is ripe for a legal challenge.
Mexican authorities have called the bill unconstitutional, and the Mexican government began providing legal help for undocumented immigrants in Texas last week.
Alfredo Corchado, who covers the border for the Dallas Morning News, said the workshops provided at Mexican consulates are based on previous efforts in other states.
“Mexico has a lot of experience with other states, whether it’s Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Kansas, Arizona. So they’ve been down this road before,” Corchado said. “Even before this bill becomes law, they started providing legal help for undocumented migrants to try to remind them that they have rights. And these are basically a right to due process, whether it’s the right to seek legal counsel, the right to be with your family, etc.”
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The plan is to hold these workshops throughout the state.
“Mexico has 53 consul generals throughout the United States; 11 of them are in Texas,” Corchado said. “Texas has a thousand-mile border with Mexico. So this would be a big, big place to tackle this issue. And as you know, Hispanics are the majority in Texas, and Mexican migrants are – I mean, they work in all kinds of industries throughout the state.”
Corchado said the fear among Mexican authorities is that this law could increase racial profiling and harassment of Mexican migrants and Mexican-Americans.
“They fear of racial profiling, not just if a person doesn’t have the proper documents, but Mexican-Americans in general,” he said. “They fear family separations where you have mixed families – when some members of the family don’t have documents and other members are either U.S. citizens or legal residents. And the other one is preying on migrants: the scams by so-called legal experts who will try to charge people thousands of dollars to ‘protect them.’”
Corchado said the goal of the workshops, in part, is to teach people how their right to due process works within the legal system.
“We were not given permission to attend the one in Dallas, but we’ve been told by officials that in others in other states, what they teach them is the fundamental constitutional rights,” he said. “The concern is that there’s so much confusion about this bill that even authorities may not be aware of what the rights are or are not for an immigrant.
“So it’s basically to teach them the basics, but also teach them that, in the end, whether you have documents or don’t have documents, you’re a human being, and you have you have rights.”