Despite President Donald Trump’s tweeted assurances that the men and women protected by the soon-to-be canceled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program have “nothing to worry about,” a group of DACA recipients has allegedly been detained by federal officials at an immigration checkpoint in Texas, some 70 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border.
According to attorney Elba Rocha, who has been in contact with a relative of one of the DACA detainees, between 6 and 10 people have been stopped since Monday morning, and are being held by Customs and Border Patrol agents at the Falfurrias checkpoint, an hour outside Corpus Christi, TX.
The detentions were first reported by the Monitor newspaper in Texas.
Speaking with Splinter by phone, Rocha explained that “based on what the family told me, the [CBP] officer told [one of the detainees] that ‘well, the thing is we have instructions to detain anyone that has a DACA card, basically.”
When asked what would happen to those detained on Monday, Rocha claimed that a CBP officer at the checkpoint told the family member: “well, we really don’t know. We’re still trying to get directions from above us as far as what we are supposed to do exactly.”
According to Rocha, in the past, DACA participants would simply show their DACA identification and be allowed to pass through the checkpoint without incident.
Rocha said that today’s events, and CBP’s subsequent confirmation of temporarily holding DACA recipients for background checks, is the first that she, and other immigration attorneys with whom she is in touch, have heard of this new practice. She added that they are are unclear if this is localized to Falfurrias, or is being enacted at other checkpoints across Texas.
“My understanding is that the DACA would just continue with their protective status,” Rocha said, referring to the president’s promise that DACA recipients would continue to be treated as they always had while the program was being shut down by the administration.
In a short statement to the press, a CBP official confirmed that DACA recipients are now being detained, explaining:
When a DACA recipient presents themselves for immigration inspection they will temporarily be detained for accuracy and verification of status. Once substantiated, the DACA recipient will be processed and released accordingly.
However, according to Rocha, that “temporary” process began mid-morning and shows little sign of wrapping up, despite assurances from agents to the family members waiting at the checkpoint.
“An officer came out and told them ‘they’re gonna be released’—this was at about maybe 12:30—‘but it’ll be about an hour,’” she told me.
But following that, Rocha said, a different agent came out and told anxious family members that they should consider leaving and because things might take a long time. What’s more, she claimed, the agent was unsure if people would be released from the checkpoint or if they would be taken to a detention center first.
It is unclear why DACA recipients would be transferred to a detention center. I have reached out to CBP for comment on the alleged detention of DACA recipients, and for clarification on this new practice, and will update this story with any response.
In a statement to The Monitor, Congressman Filemon Vela (D-TX34) criticized CBP for the new practice and its seemingly uneven application:
CBP must ensure that Border Patrol agents at all levels are informed that DACA is still in place for the next six months. DACA recipients cannot and should not be held for hours at checkpoints due to confusion over changes in policy. My office has been in touch with CBP to convey this information and I will be following up with CBP to know what guidance is being provided for agents across the field.
The Trump administration’s unpopular decision to stop the DACA program has prompted lawsuits from a number of states. In a memo sent to Capitol Hill staffers last week, the administration claims DACA recipients should spend their final months of protection preparing to “arrange their departure from the United States.”
When I spoke to Rocha, she was busy working to make direct contact with the detained DACA recipient directly.
“This isn’t about me,” she explained. “I’m hoping to get this individual to give the authority to share his name and phone number and so-forth, so you all can interview him. Because I want others on DACA, as well as others that are not on DACA [to know] that what the administration is representing is not, in reality, what’s going on.”
Update: 9/12, 8:05 AM—A CBP spokesperson released the following statement, confirming that DACA recipients were detained at the Texas checkpoint:
USBP agents encountered nine individuals at the immigration checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas. The individuals claimed to be enrolled in DACA. Agents validated their claims by reviewing and verifying their documents. The individuals were then released to proceed with their journey, consistent with established policies and procedures.