A new investigation shows that the Texas Highway Patrol has been turning routine traffic stops of immigrants into deportations.
The Intercept and the ACLU of Texas obtained Department of Public Safety dashcam videos that show immigrants (drivers, passengers, pedestrians) detained for minor traffic infractions by state troopers who call the Border Patrol and/or the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
This well-oiled deportation machine began back in 2008 when the Texas Motor Vehicles department ruled that that no one could get a driver’s license without showing proof they were in the U.S. legally, which created many undocumented drivers because Texas has a patchy to nonexistent public transportation system.
Debbie Nathan of the ACLU of Texas told Democracy Now how the immigrant sweeps happen:
So, in the course of stopping people on the border, for things like broken taillights or failing to signal when they do a lane change, they ask for their driver’s licenses. Now, in Texas and many other states for the past few years, it’s been impossible for undocumented people to get driver’s licenses.
Well, they have to drive. I mean, there’s really no public transportation, and people have to go to work. So they drive, and they don’t have licenses. And it becomes sort of like sort of the opposite of a star on your sleeve, like not to have something.
As soon as they say they don’t have a driver’s license, it triggers a call from the trooper to the Border Patrol. And the Border Patrol, there are, you know, thousands of them on the Texas border, so they’re usually just a few minutes away, and they arrive quickly…
Well, the troopers are not supposed to do that, but they start the interrogation, and then the Border Patrol finishes it up. They have the legal right to do that, once they arrive. But the interrogations often start, you know, when the troopers encounter the person.
And I’ve seen—there’s one video in The Intercept piece where a man tries to exercise his Fifth Amendment right not to say why he doesn’t have a driver’s license. And he’s very much verbally abused—in a similar manner, actually, to the Sandra Bland encounter. These are the same agents.
But, you know, it was my sense, from looking at a lot of these videos, these dash cam videos that I got from the troopers, that, you know, I mean, even though that behavior is supposed to be really unacceptable, and they fired the agent who did it to Sandra Bland, it’s allowed on the border with immigrants.