Texas Democrat Judge Dismisses 211 Border Rioting Charges Filed Against Migrants

FILE - Migrants wait in line adjacent to the border fence under the watch of the Texas Nat
AP File Photo/Andres Leighton

In a setback to the prosecution of migrants involved in a massive border breach in March, El Paso County Court at Law #7 Judge Ruben Morales dismissed 211 individual cases involving migrants charged with rioting at a border crossing. According to Morales, a procedural error transferring the cases from the local district court to his county court meant he lacked jurisdiction and was obligated to dismiss the charges.

According to a report by the El Paso Times, Judge Morales, a Democrat, issued his ruling during Wednesday’s court sessions, saying, “If I don’t have jurisdiction, there’s nothing I can do on these cases except dismiss them.” The cases stemmed from an incident on March 21, near an area known as “Gate 36” in El Paso, where hundreds of migrants stormed past Texas Army National Guard soldiers. Several soldiers sustained injuries as a large group of migrants breached concertina wire and “no-climb” fencing, hoping to surrender to the Border Patrol.

The migrants will be released to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and will be processed for asylum or removal. At a Thursday press conference, Republican District Attorney Bill Hicks told media representatives he felt strongly that appropriate procedures were followed and that his office intends to appeal Judge Morales’s ruling. El Paso County Assistant District Attorney Kyle Lasley, who represented the state in the riot prosecution case against the migrants, also disagrees with Morales’ dismissal of the cases.

At the press conference, Hicks told reporters if the court of appeals reverses Morales’s decision, arrest warrants will be issued for those migrants who have been released into the United States. Any of the accused migrants who have been removed from the country will face charges upon re-entry.

The ruling did not address those migrants charged with more serious offenses in the incident. Those cases still before the courts include seven migrants currently in custody and two others who are not in custody and face outstanding arrest warrants. Those migrants facing more serious charges include:

  • Junior Evaristo Benitez-Martinez, 21, of Venezuela (rioting – felony, criminal mischief and assault public servant)
  • Keider Jose Zurita Aponte, 21, of Venezuela (rioting – felony, criminal mischief and assault public servant)
  • Gregori Jose Guilarte-Acosta, 18, of Venezuela (rioting – felony, criminal mischief and assault public servant)
  • Omar Alejandro Graterol Colmenares, 27, Venezuela (rioting – felony, criminal mischief and assault public servant)
  • Joshua Fernando Garcia Juarez, 18, of Guatemala (rioting – felony)
  • Luis Jesus Chacon, 27, of Venezuela (rioting – felony)
  • Martin Elias Villasis Cedeno, 46, of Ecuador (rioting – felony)

The two others are wanted for felony rioting, and warrants have been issued:

  • Juan Jose Colorado Gutierrez, 34, of Venezuela (warrant issued: rioting – felony, criminal mischief, and assault public servant)
  • Gabriel Enrique Angarita Carrasquero, 22, of Venezuela (warrant issued: rioting – felony, criminal mischief and assault public servant)

Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.


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