The Border Patrol Allegedly Thinks It Can Just Ignore Court Orders Now

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent
Photo: Eric Gay/AP

Here’s your regular dose of the hell that is our immigration system: An undocumented man living in New Mexico was detained by the border patrol last week–despite having documentation that showed a federal judge closed his immigration case years ago, the Texas Tribune reported Friday.

Luis Orozco Morales, who lives in Hobbs, NM, was arrested while helping a friend transport auto parts from El Paso to Hobbs. Orozco had made the trip before, but upon stopping at a remote Border Patrol checkpoint, he was told by agents that his paperwork wasn’t valid.

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Orozco says agents mocked him, then arrested him and detained him for nearly a week. His wife—a U.S. citizen who has fibromyalgia and whom Orozco cares for—and his sister-in-law reportedly weren’t allowed to visit him in detention.

“I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong, the whole time I was [acting] within the law, but they asked me to exit the car and said my papers weren’t valid,” the 47-year-old from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, told the Tribune.

In 2010, Orozco was caught after entering the U.S. illegally, but was later released, the Tribune reported. A federal immigration judge closed his case in 2014 through an administrative closure, a process that puts a person’s immigration case on indefinite hold and takes them off the court’s docket.

According to the Tribune, administrative closures are used in low-priority cases, and a case closed through the process can be reopened at the request of the immigrant, or by the Department of Homeland Security to deport someone. But Orozco’s attorney, Eduardo Beckett, said Border Patrol agents can’t make that call. (In May 2018, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the ability for judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals to issue administrative closures.)

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On top of that, Beckett said Orozco has never been in trouble with local police, or charged with a state crime, nor has he violated the conditions of his administrative closure nor his $5,000 bond, which also hasn’t been revoked.

Despite that, Beckett says that’s exactly what the agent who detained his client did. From the Tribune:

Beckett said his client’s court order is still valid and a rogue Border Patrol agent single-handedly overruled the judge’s order.

Orozco said that when he pulled up to the checkpoint, the Border Patrol agent told him the judge didn’t know what he was doing when he signed the documents.

“[He] said you’re a Mexican, you don’t need to be here,” Orozco said. “They told me, ‘This paper the judge gave you isn’t valid. He doesn’t know the laws.’”

[...]

“I think that the concept that a Border Patrol agent can by himself, without any authority, without going to a judge, just overturn an order, to me that goes against the rule of law, it goes against procedure,” Beckett said.

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Orozco was released four days after his arrest, but he has to wear an ankle monitor and report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Oct. 10. Meanwhile, Lisa R. Donaldson, an attorney for the El Paso CBP office, told Beckett that CBP considers Orozco’s case “pending” because a “formal decision hasn’t been rendered.”

Beckett told the Tribune he thinks Orozco’s case will be placed back on the immigration court docket, opening the possibility of deportation.

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“My advice is, do not go through a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint because they are not respecting the rule of law,” Orozco told the Tribune.

Another day, another alleged abuse of power by CBP.

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About the author

Samantha Grasso

Splinter Staff Writer, Texan