El Paso judge orders release of migrants accused of ‘border riot’

On Easter Sunday, an El Paso magistrate ordered the release migrants accused of a “border-riot” that occurred when National Guard troops were overwhelmed by a stampede along the Rio Grande.

Officials from the court noted that migrants who are not documented will remain in jail if a federal hold on immigration prevents their release.

A spokeswoman from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Monday that the Texas Department of Public Safety had booked around 220 people for riot charges. Of those, 39 were processed and released to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, while others remain in jail on immigration detainers.

On Sunday, March 31st, Presiding Magistrate Humberto Judge Acosta delivered his decision during an online teleconference hearing. He accused the El Paso District Attorney’s Office that it was not ready to conduct detention hearings on each defendant. A hearing for additional defendants is expected to take place on Monday.


Acosta, on Sunday, ordered that “all the rioting cases will be released by their own recognizance.”

Hearings for approximately 40 additional defendants in the case of the riot were waived on Monday. Kelli Childress, El Paso’s Public Defender, requested that the defendants stay at the El Paso County Jail. She said this was an unusual move because the defense attorneys could not communicate with the defendants if they were taken to an Immigration Center.

Jennifer Vandenbosch, assistant district attorney, stated on Monday that the state is prepared to move forward with every hearing.

The Texas Department of Public Safety made the arrests in relation to a stampede of asylum seekers — mostly Venezuelan men — on March 21, who tore down razor wire along Rio Grande and ran up the border fence near Border Safety Initiative Marker No. The 36 area in El Paso Lower Valley’s Riverside is where the arrests were made by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Some migrants are facing charges of assaulting a public employee for knocking down Texas National Guard soldiers before order was restored. The migrants were trying to surrender to the U.S. Border Patrol to seek asylum or other immigration assistance.

El Paso’s ‘riots’ have led to ‘hundreds of arrests’

The judge’s decision was not clear if it applied only to “riot participation”, and not assault or criminal mischief, charges related to border rush chaos.

Migrants have been charged with “riot participation”, a misdemeanor of Class B. Acosta said that “hundreds” of arrestees were entitled to hearings on their detention within 48 hours.

Acosta rejected the request of Assistant District Attorney Ashley M. Martinez for a postponement to hold the hearings later.

Acosta stated at the hearing that if the DA’s office tells him they aren’t ready to go we will release them on their own recognizance.

On Sunday morning, two more migrants, one of whom was a Colombian, were separately heard on charges of criminal mischief for allegedly cutting the border fence. Each was jailed for $2,000 in bond. They were released on their own recognizance by Magistrate Judge Antonio Aun. Both men are under immigration hold.

Due to the Easter weekend, it was not possible to reach the El Paso District Attorney’s Office for comment Sunday. The county offices will be closed Monday, in honor of Cesar Chavez Day, and Friday for GoodFriday.

Texas National Guard forces surge to El Paso Border

The state sent 700 National Guard troops to El Paso last week, including more than 200 soldiers from the Texas Tactical Border Force, to strengthen border enforcement. This force includes infantrymen, scouts mechanics and medics.

A video from Operation Lone Star shows troops on a transport aircraft and at the border, with riot shields, moving migrants away so crews can replace damaged rolls of razor wire along Rio Grande’s banks.