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150 Guards Preparing Empty Texas Prison for Immigrants

Plus: Immigration courts reopen in Texas, public blocked from migrant child shelter court case, free immigration hotline can reopen

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There are 147 guards working in the empty South Texas Briscoe Unit, which Gov. Greg Abbott (R) plans on using as a state-run jail for immigrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Over 1,000 prisoners from the prison were transferred to other state prisons weeks ago in preparation for Abbott’s goal. According to a spokesperson for Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Briscoe officers are training to be certified as jailers while the prison is in “maintenance mode.” It’s unclear when and how the prison will be converted into a jail for migrants facing, but not convicted of, state criminal charges. The Texas Tribune 

In other national immigration news…

Immigration Courts Reopen in Texas, And There’s Already a Backlog

Like those in New York City, immigration courts in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and El Paso reopened earlier this week, and judges are dealing with big backlogs. According to TRAC, Houston’s courts are some of the most backlogged in the U.S., with about 80,000 cases pending and an average wait time of more than three years. Claudia and Francisco Méndez have been waiting for their immigration case to be settled for almost 10 years. The Méndez family came to the U.S. from Mexico 20 years ago, overstayed their visa and have lived in Houston since. When their daughter was born with a medical condition, they realized they had to get legal immigration status to ensure the family was not separated. Houston Public Media 

Tennessee Judge Blocks Public from Migrant Children Shelter Hearings

Judge Phillip R. Hilliard blocked the public’s and news organizations’ access to a hearing on the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services’ suspension of a Chattanooga shelter for unaccompanied migrant children. The state suspended the facility due to allegations of child abuse, and after a teenage boy ran away from the facility last month. The Baptiste Group, which operates the facility, is challenging the suspension and also said the hearings should be held publicly.  The Times Free Press 

Free Immigration Detention Hotline Settlement Reached

Freedom for Immigrants settled a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security for dismantling a toll-free hotline that allowed immigrants from detention centers to contact lawyers. Federal immigration authorities agreed to give detainees uninterrupted access to the National Immigration Detention Hotline for about five years and pay $100,970 to cover the plantiff’s claims for attorney fees and costs. The hotline was shut down two weeks after “Orange is the New Black” discussed the hotline in a 2019 episode. According to Freedom for Immigrants, the hotline received 600 to 14,500 calls per month from individuals detained around the U.S. NBC News 

Southern Border Crossings Are Not a ‘Military Matter,’ Experts Say

U.S.-Mexico border crossings are at an all-time high, prompting Republican-led states to send National Guard units to Texas and Arizona. The Republican governors have continuously criticized President Joe Biden’s response to the increased crossings. Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin have all announced deployments. Legal experts told VOA News that the authority to handle U.S. immigration is “almost exclusive” to the federal government, but that it’s “really clear that members of the military cannot engage in law enforcement activities of any kind within the United States territory.” VOA News

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