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 April 1, 2024

Judge calls for release of migrants arrested in El Paso border riot

An El Paso magistrate judge on Easter Sunday ordered the release of migrants accused in a "border riot" following a stampede that overwhelmed National Guard troops along the Rio Grande.

Presiding Magistrate Judge Humberto Acosta issued his ruling on Sunday, March 31, during an online teleconference bond hearing.

The situation

He accused the El Paso District Attorney's Office of being unprepared to proceed with detention hearings for each defendant. Another hearing for additional defendants is anticipated on Monday.

"It is the ruling of the court that all the rioting participation cases will be released on their own recognizance," Acosta stated.

The arrests stemmed from a March 21 incident when a group of asylum-seeking migrants, primarily men from Venezuela, tore down razor wire along the Rio Grande and rushed the border fence at Border Safety Initiative Marker No. 36 in El Paso's Riverside area.

Some migrants face charges of assaulting public servants for confronting Texas National Guard troops before order was restored. The migrants had intended to surrender to U.S. Border Patrol agents to seek asylum or other immigration relief.

The judge's decision

The judge's decision applied specifically to the "riot participation" charge, leaving unclear its impact on assault and criminal mischief charges related to the chaotic border rush. Acosta noted that "hundreds of arrestees" were entitled to individual detention hearings within 48 hours.

Assistant District Attorney Ashley M. Martinez's request for a continuance to postpone the hearings to a later date was denied by Acosta.

"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 asserted during the hearing.

The National Guard's role

Two other migrants, including a Colombian man, had separate hearings on Sunday morning for criminal mischief charges related to allegedly cutting border fencing.

They were initially held on $2,000 bonds each but were granted release on personal recognizance bonds by Magistrate Judge Antonio Aun. Both men are subject to immigration holds.

Last week, the state deployed 700 National Guard soldiers to El Paso, including more than 200 soldiers from the Texas Tactical Border Force, to reinforce border enforcement efforts.

An Operation Lone Star video depicted troops boarding a transport plane and assisting with the replacement of damaged razor wire along the Rio Grande while using riot shields to manage migrant movement along the border.

Written By:
Dillon Burroughs

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