The dashcam images are hard to watch. In one, a woman with a 5-month-old baby pleads with a Texas state trooper not to hand her partner over to border patrol agents. In another, a 16-year-old boy finds out that his father is being taken away. Obtained by The Intercept, these videos of immigrants being separated from their families show how a crackdown on the Texas-Mexico border is endangering immigrants and tearing apart lives.
Trump has targeted Mexican immigrants from the beginning of his candidacy for president, calling them “rapists” and criminals, and vowing to secure the U.S. border with Mexico by building a “big, beautiful” border wall. Since Trump took office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has followed suit with his vows to crackdown on illegal immigration — by September, they had made 43 percent more arrests than the same period last year. ICE has even targeted undocumented immigrants with no criminal record, with these types of arrests up threefold.
In Texas, the state highway patrol has apparently started turning over undocumented immigrants pulled over for minor traffic violations to state border patrol agents, creating what ACLU investigative reporter Debbie Nathan calls a “deportation pipeline.” In DPS videos obtained by The Intercept, state troopers are shown stopping immigrants for small infractions — say, a defective tail light or dark tinted windows — and calling border patrol agents.
In one video, state trooper Cristobal Flores asks a man who goes by Paco to show his driver’s license. When Paco can’t produce it, Flores repeatedly asks him why in Spanish, pressing him repeatedly with “¿Por qué? ¿Por qué?” Por que?” Paco tries to exercise his right to remain silent, but it seems clear the trooper wants him to admit that he is undocumented. The state trooper calls border patrol, and Paco is sent to an immigration detention center.
In another video, Ruth Mariel Ramirez is pulled over for having her windows tinted too dark. When state troopers find out she is undocumented, they call border control and she is handcuffed. Ramirez was forced to return to Juarez, Mexico, with her four children — three of whom were born in the United States.
Two factors make border towns in Texas more dangerous for immigrants today than they once were. Firstly, many do not carry driver's licenses — since 2008, Texas has required that applicants present proof of legal status in order to obtain this form of identification. Secondly, the state’s Department of Public Safety ended its “catch and release” policy last year. Whereas state troopers used to let most immigrants off for these types of driving violations, they are now obligated to turn them over to border patrol if they can’t produce documents.
Immigration lawyer José Pertierra wrote on Twitter that the Texas Highway Patrol's policies are "racist, xenophobic, and unconstitutional."
Undocumented immigrants make up a significant portion of the Texas population. According to a February study by the Pew Research Center, of the five U.S. cities with the largest undocumented immigrant populations, three are in Texas. But recent actions by the state government have put these immigrants in danger. A bill that went partially into effect in September gives more power to local officials to enforce federal immigration policy, increasing the likelihood that more individuals like these Texas state troopers will begin to crack down on undocumented immigrants.
While it’s unclear whether the wave of arrests in Texas is a direct outcome of the Trump administration’s tough stance on immigration, the cases documented by The Intercept offer just one example of the dangers that immigrants in America now face on an everyday basis.
Recent policies passed by the Trump administration are unlikely to improve the situation. In September, the president announced he would end the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), putting young immigrants who had been protected from deportation in danger and ending any hopes of a path to citizenship. In November, the administration announced that it would rescind Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, forcing many to return to a country that is still devastated by natural disasters that have occurred in recent years. And with the travel ban in full effect, citizens of eight nations (six of them predominantly Muslim) are barred from entering the United States.
You can watch the devastating videos on The Intercept's website.