Con­sul: DPS aided de­por­ta­tion ef­fort

Agency says trooper not in­volved in Bastrop’s con­tro­ver­sial op­er­a­tion.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Sean Collins Walsh and Bran­don Mul­der scwalsh@states­man.com bmul­der@ac­n­news­pa­pers.com

A Texas De­part­ment of Public Safety trooper par­tic­i­pated in the Bastrop County sher­iff ’s con­tro­ver­sial “zero tol­er­ance” traf­fic en­force­ment op­er­a­tion, which re­sulted in 24 peo­ple be­ing ar­rested and 14 of them picked up by im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties for de­por­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings, ac­cord­ing to Car­los González Gu­tiér­rez, the Mex­i­can con­sul for Austin.

González said he con­firmed the trooper’s in­volve­ment in a Wed­nes­day meet­ing with Bastrop County Sher­iff Mau­rice Cook, who ini­tially de­nied that any other po­lice agency was in­volved in the June 23 op­er­a­tionbut then ad­mit­ted to a DPS role af­ter González noted that po­lice records show at least one per­son, Jaime Cor­ral Quin­tero, had been ar­rested by a state trooper. Quin­tero has since been de­ported to Mex­ico, González said.

“First he said, ‘No, there is no

other agency,’” González re­counted. “Then he said, ‘Oh, well, yes, yes, yes. One High­way Pa­trol of­fi­cer was in­volved.’”

DPS spokesman Tom Vinger, how­ever, said Thurs­day that the agency was not in­volved in the op­er­a­tion and that it reg­u­larly pa­trols the area, a heav­ily Hispanic neigh­bor­hood in western Bastrop County. He noted that the DPS ar­rest oc­curred about 9 a.m., sev­eral hours be­fore sher­iff’s deputies be­gan ar­rest­ing peo­ple en masse in an op­er­a­tion that lasted through the evening.

State Rep. Ed­die Ro­driguez, D-Austin, said the pos­si­ble par­tic­i­pa­tion of the state po­lice force would raise ad­di­tional con­cerns for crit­ics of the op­er­a­tion who said it amounted to racial pro­fil­ing and was a con­se­quence of Se­nate Bill 4, the new state law aimed at ban­ning so-called sanc­tu­ary ci­ties that de­cline to as­sist fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment.

“The idea that the state is go­ing to co­op­er­ate and maybe even par­tic­i­pate in a racial-pro­fil­ing ef­fort by the Bastrop sher­iff is be­yond the pale,” said Ro­driguez, who is the pol­icy chair for the Mex­i­can Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Cau­cus. “It’s bad public pol­icy for the state to get in­volved in lo­cal mat­ters like this, es­pe­cially when it comes to the most di­vi­sive is­sue we faced” in the last leg­isla­tive ses­sion, he said.

Ro­driguez said he plans to ask the DPS for de­tails about its in­volve­ment in the op­er­a­tion.

Cook did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Thurs­day.

Three de­ported so far

The op­er­a­tion, which in­volved five sher­iff ’s deputies, cen­tered on the area around the Stony Point neigh­bor­hood, whose res­i­dents have since said they felt they were tar­geted. While Bastrop County is ma­jor­ity white, the neigh­bor­hood is over­whelm­ingly Latino.

In the op­er­a­tion, deputies pulled over peo­ple for mostly mi­nor traf­fic vi­o­la­tions such as chang­ing lanes with­out sig­nal­ing or hav­ing ob­scured li­cense plates. They took driv­ers to the Bastrop County Jail if they dis­cov­ered an ar­restable of­fense dur­ing the traf­fic stop. In all, they is­sued 63 ci­ta­tions and warn­ings and ar­rested 24 peo­ple, mostly for driv­ing with­out a li­cense, Cook said pre­vi­ously. All but one of the mo­torists ar­rested had Hispanic sur­names.

Once they were booked into jail, U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment no­ti­fied the sher­iff ’s of­fice that it wanted to pick up 14 of the driv­ers for sus­pected im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tions.

González said new in­for­ma­tion from ICE and from the sher­iff show that, so far, three peo­ple have been de­ported to Mex­ico, four have been sent to im­mi­grant de­ten­tion cen­ters, five were re­leased on their own re­cog­ni­zance with fu­ture ICE pro­ceed­ings sched­uled, and two re­main in county jail to be tried for state crimes.

Quin­tero was pulled over for not hav­ing a front li­cense plate on his white pickup and told the trooper he did not have a li­cense. The trooper then dis­cov­ered that Quin­tero had war­rants for driv­ing with­out a li­cense and with­out in­sur­ance and ar­rested Quin­tero for driv­ing with­out a li­cense, a Class C mis­de­meanor.

Sher­iff de­fends op­er­a­tion

González said his meet­ing with Cook, a Repub­li­can and a for­mer head of the Texas Rangers, was “cor­dial, though chilly.”

The sher­iff, he said, was “em­phatic” that the op­er­a­tion was not in­tended to tar­get im­mi­grants and that it was a rou­tine law en­force­ment tac­tic.

“He said that he was com­mit­ted to en­forc­ing the law with­out re­gard to the con­se­quences,” González said. “He said that if his of­fi­cers pull over some­one who was driv­ing with­out a driver’s li­cense, that their obli­ga­tion was to ar­rest the driver.”

González said he pressed Cook to en­cour­age his of­fi­cers to use dis­cre­tion when deal­ing with peo­ple driv­ing with­out a li­cense. Many of the im­mi­grants ar­rested, he noted, were long­time U.S. res­i­dents who told the con­sulate that they wanted to get Texas driver’s li­censes but could not.

Cook said his of­fi­cers of­ten don’t ar­rest peo­ple for driv­ing with­out a li­cense be­cause it would take hours out of their day and he has few of­fi­cers to pa­trol the county. Dur­ing the op­er­a­tion, how­ever, they had the re­sources to ar­rest peo­ple en masse by hav­ing ad­di­tional deputies on hand and vans to take de­tained mo­torists to jail.

González of­fered to have his of­fice train Bastrop County deputies to rec­og­nize valid forms of Mex­i­can ID cards, some­thing it has done for the po­lice de­part­ments in Austin and San Mar­cos and will soon do for Waco po­lice.

The sher­iff, he said, was non­com­mit­tal in re­sponse and noted that his deputies’ train­ing hours were lim­ited.

“I tried to con­vince him, but he did not com­mit to do that,” González said. “He said that he would an­a­lyze it, but I did not have the im­pres­sion that he was ex­cited about the idea.”

In­ter­faith group out­raged

Cook said he planned the op­er­a­tion af­ter a group of civic lead­ers re­quested in­creased law en­force­ment pres­ence in the area. But af­ter the ar­rests, the group, Bastrop In­ter­faith, crit­i­cized Cook, say­ing the op­er­a­tion vi­o­lated the com­mu­nity’s trust in the sher­iff ’s of­fice and was not what they had asked for.

Cook met with the group and Stony Point res­i­dents on Thurs­day in his of­fices.

One of the res­i­dents who was ar­rested and is fac­ing de­por­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings, they told Cook, had built his Stony Point house with his own hands 25 years ago and lived there with his wife, chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.

“It’s just dev­as­tat­ing to the fam­ily,” Edie Clark of Bastrop In­ter­faith said. “He may be de­ported back to Mex­ico, and his wife has to de­cide: Does she go with him or does she stay here where she has chil­dren and grand­chil­dren that rely on her?”

The group pre­sented Cook with re­quests: soften his zero tol­er­ance ap­proach to traf­fic op­er­a­tions, stop tar­get­ing Stony Point and en­cour­age deputies to in­form peo­ple they pull over that they are not re­quired to an­swer ques­tions re­lated to im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

Cook com­mit­ted to telling of­fi­cers to use dis­cre­tion when de­cid­ing whether to ar­rest mo­torists to en­force traf­fic laws evenly through­out the county, not just Stony Point, mem­bers of the group said af­ter the meet­ing. But he did not com­mit to in­struct­ing his deputies to in­form driv­ers about their rights dur­ing road­side ques­tion­ing.

“It’s very pos­i­tive that he agreed to meet with us,” Clark said. “I think that will go a long way to start mov­ing for­ward.”

‘It’s bad public pol­icy for the state to get in­volved in lo­cal mat­ters like this ... ’ Car­los González Gu­tiér­rez, Mex­i­can con­sul for Austin

Car­los González Gu­tiér­rez (left), Mex­i­can con­sul, said Bastrop County Sher­iff Mau­rice Cook

con­firmed trooper’s in­volve­ment.

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