Patterico's Pontifications


County Attorney Stops To Help Illegal Immigrants Lost In Desert, Subsequently Detained By Authorities

Filed under: General — Dana @ 1:14 pm

[guest post by Dana]

For Americans, especially those who reside in states that border Mexico, the issue of illegal immigration continues to be a contentious one. As record numbers of Central Americans make their way to the U.S., border arrests have increased and the Trump administration has begun implementing a more thorough screening of asylum seekers. The administration is also reportedly taking a stronger stance against private citizens who help illegals coming through the difficult terrain of the desert’s migration corridors and provide them with food and water, or with temporary shelter. With that, there is an interesting story about a West Texas county attorney being detained by authorities for being a good Samaritan after helping three young illegal immigrants lost in the middle of nowhere:

The three Salvadoran migrants were a family — Carlos, 22, his brother, Francisco, 20, and their sister, Esmeralda, 18. They had fled their home country years ago and were living with an aunt in Guatemala. Worsening gang violence forced them to leave — two of Carlos’s friends were murdered, and a gang leader wanted Esmeralda to be his girlfriend, according to court documents. The trio headed for the United States and crossed the border in a remote stretch of desert with a group of migrants and smugglers. But Esmeralda became sick and had trouble keeping up.

The others in the group pushed ahead, but her brothers stayed by her side. The three of them became lost as they hiked north, and they ran out of food and water, according to statements they provided to the federal public defender’s office. Esmeralda’s condition had worsened by the time they flagged down Ms. Todd.

She had the siblings get in her car and started to contact friends — one who works for a refugee services nonprofit and another who is a lawyer for the Border Patrol.

Moments later, a sheriff’s deputy from neighboring Presidio County pulled up behind her, lights flashing. The deputy and Ms. Todd know one another, but he was immediately suspicious, she said, asking whether she thought the migrants’ backpacks smelled like dope. The deputy alerted Border Patrol, whose agents read Ms. Todd her rights.

Ms. Todd, who routinely puts misdemeanor lawbreakers behind bars as a county attorney, was put in a holding cell at a nearby Border Patrol station. Her purse and other personal items were confiscated.

“I walk in and a guy says, ‘Are you the driver?’ I said, ‘No, I’m the lady who stopped to help these kids,’” Ms. Todd said. “They seemed to think there was something very nefarious going on, when I literally got flagged down on the side of the road and tried to be a good Samaritan.”

She was held in a large holding cell for about 45 minutes, and then released and driven back to her car, which was still on the side of the highway. She had been detained for a total of about three hours.

Days later, back at work at Marfa City Hall, she was visited at her office by an agent with federal Homeland Security Investigations and a Texas Ranger. The federal agent handed her a search warrant for her phone, and she surrendered it. One of the friends she had texted that night told Ms. Todd that agents had also questioned her and examined her phone.

The three migrants Ms. Todd had helped are now in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in El Paso and could face deportation. “All three remain in ICE custody pending disposition of their immigration cases,” an ICE spokeswoman said in a statement.

Ms. Todd said that she did not understand why she was arrested and detained:

“I honestly don’t feel like I ever did anything wrong: I stopped to help some kids,” said Ms. Todd, 53, who serves as both the city attorney of Marfa, Tex., and the county attorney of Jeff Davis County, an elected position. “It’s been pretty transformative for me, to be perfectly honest. To have devoted my life to public service, and then to be Mirandized, detained and investigated as if I’m a human smuggler. The whole thing was really, really, very surreal. It was like a ‘Twilight Zone.’”

Ms. Todd has not been charged with a crime at this point in time.

As for the ill sister:

According to court records, [Esmeralda] was taken by Border Patrol agents to Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine, Tex., and was treated for four days for starvation, dehydration, infected wounds from cactus spines and rhabdomyolysis, a serious condition that can lead to kidney failure.

The Good Samaritan Act of Texas states:

(a) A person who in good faith administers emergency care is not liable in civil damages for an act performed during the emergency unless the act is wilfully or wantonly negligent[.]

The exceptions appear to be if the supposed Good Samaritan has been wantonly negligent, if there is an expectation of remuneration, or if the Good Samaritan caused the initial harm in the first place that lead to the need for help.

While the Presidio County sheriff, (whose office received the 911 call about a young man on the road needing assistance) told reporters that “Knowingly transporting undocumented individuals is a felony federal offense,” Ms. Todd is committed to working with congressional representatives to exempt good Samaritans from federal prosecution. Jeff Davis County Sheriff Williams Kitts, however, focused on the more immediate picture:

“Harboring is a big jump for them to make in my book,” Sheriff Kitts said of the threatened criminal charges against Ms. Todd. “There’s a human component to this. We’ll let Congress and the politicians fight it out, but if somebody’s hungry or thirsty or needs some help, we’re going to help them.”

And I’ll leave you with two opposing comments from readers at the linked article:

#1 –

Ok I get that she stopped to help them. But I also believe she knew who and what they were. And they are not migrants when they cross the border illegally. They were not looking for asylum. Asylum seekers stop at a legal border crossing and request asylum. They illegally crossed the border into the country. That makes them no different from someone who just robbed a bank or convenience store or broke out of prison and was on the run. She was then phoning family and friends for help. She didnt call for an ambulance. She didnt call police. She knew who they were and what they were doing. And she was not calling authorities. So she was aiding and abetting. I am thankful that such compassion still exists in places in American society and I dont doubt that she was trying to help them and that’s great. But what was her plan if the deputy and border patrol hadn’t shown up? She was clearly not calling law enforcement so was her plan to provide them food and water, maybe shelter and a ride to someplace else where they could safely continue elsewhere into the country? It certainly appears that could have been her intent. And if she did exactly that for an escaped prisoner or someone who just robbed the bank, what would you consider her then and how would you demand her be treated?

#2 –

[Y]our views seem to hinge on the fact that these folks had crossed the border illegally, and therefore broke a law. It might be good to remember that they had been separated from the larger group they were with, and were essentially lost. It’s reasonable to assume that they just didn’t happen to come across a border crossing station, and were understandably more concerned with getting their sister the medical attention she so badly needed. It also seems like you hold a very black and white view on morality. I think being human is to realize that while laws in our societies can seem black and white, humanity does not fall into those extreme camps. While illegally entering a country because you are on the run from violence in your home is against the law, it is fallacious to equivocate between that and robbing a bank. Maybe try to put yourself in their shoes. If I felt unsafe in my home, the people around me being murdered, I would hope beyond hope that the global community would be sympathetic to my suffering and want to help me. Remember that no one wants to be a refugee.

It’s an interesting story because at the end of the day, and in spite of her obvious efforts to help the three individuals, Ms. Todd, chief legal officer of Jeff Davis County, is the law.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


Democrats’ Dopey Contempt Citation Against Bill Barr

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:10 am

I am not a fan of Bill Barr, whom I consider to be a smugly partisan Attorney General who has enlisted himself in the service of the person of Donald J. Trump, rather than in service of the law and his country. That said, Democrats’ current effort to hold Barr in contempt is an absurd and silly unforced error. Here’s the New York Times on Wednesday:

The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to recommend that the House hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over Robert S. Mueller III’s unredacted report, hours after President Trump asserted executive privilege to shield the full report and underlying evidence from Congress.

The committee’s 24-to-16 contempt vote, taken after hours of debate over the future of American democracy, was the first official House action to punish a government official in the standoff over the Mueller report. The Justice Department denounced the move as unnecessary and intended to stoke a fight.

After the vote, the Judiciary Committee chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, swatted away questions about possible impeachment, but added, “We are now in a constitutional crisis.”

Oh, please. Commence your eye-rolling now.

Democrats could do better than this. After all, Trump has announced his intent to stonewall House Democrats on basically every front. This announcement has already created quotes that will inevitably be used against the White House in litigation over dubious future assertions of executive privilege. When your lawyers go into court to argue that you are making a narrow and reasonable claim of executive privilege, it doesn’t help to have a client who is telling the press “we’re fighting all the subpoenas” — even ones that haven’t yet been issued.

That said, some subpoenas should be fought, and this is one of them. Democrats are picking fights over relatively sparse redactions, and rejecting legitimate offers to review basically everything to which they are legally entitled to review. From the NYT link above:

Democrats say Mr. Barr’s version is not good enough, and they have accused the attorney general of stonewalling a legitimate request for material they need to pick up an investigation into possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by Mr. Trump. The Democrats’ request includes secretive grand jury information and other evidence.

The committee’s 27-page contempt report lays out the panel’s need for the report and offers an accounting of attempts to get Mr. Barr to share the materials first voluntarily and then under subpoena.

The Justice Department had tried to stave off the committee vote, offering to lawmakers some concessions around a less redacted version of the Mueller report, which omitted only grand jury material. Democrats deemed the offer insufficient.

The Justice Department had other objections to the subpoena. Compliance would require the department to violate “the law, court rules and court orders” as well as grand jury secrecy rules, a Justice Department official, Stephen E. Boyd, wrote. Republicans on the committee seized on that point to accuse Democrats of forcing Mr. Barr to choose between complying with their subpoena or the law.

You know how those damned Republicans are with their seizing, but here they happen to be exactly right. (Which, by the way, they almost always are right when described by the media as “seizing” on something, because the “seizing on” trope is the only way to disparage people who are publicly advancing an undeniably correct position.) It’s illegal to share grand jury information. DoJ is willing to show Congress everything else — including the redacted bits about how Don Jr. committed a computer crime by using a password provided by Wikileaks to access a Web site. DoJ just won’t show Congress grand jury information — because DoJ can’t legally do that.

Democrats should be spending precious time and resources fighting to have people like Don McGahn and Corey Lewandowski testify regarding matters already discussed in the Mueller report. Trump can fight “all the subpoenas” all he likes, but the White House has already waived executive privilege as to the matters discussed in the report and released to the public. The White House may have a remaining privilege over related materials, but Trump can’t prevent McGahn and Lewandowski from being forced to testify about what is already in the publicly disclosed report. That is where the real action is.

Instead of focusing on legitimate battles like that, Democrats are opening with a dumb salvo, and claiming a “constitutional crisis” where there is none. There is legitimate reason to be very concerned with the conduct described in the Mueller report, but the Democrat clowns in Congress are unlikely to do anything effective to address it.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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