State may detain immigrants at Edinburg prison

A state prison in the Rio Grande Valley may be used to detain immigrants as part of the governor’s Operation Lone Star, according to a statement received from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The Segovia Unit in Hidalgo County could be used to house immigrants arrested on state charges of trespassing, a plan announced by Gov. Greg Abbott in Del Rio on June 10.

The decision is not final yet.

“There is no planned use change. Segovia is on a list of possible use in Operation Lone Star. If that is deemed needed by the Governor’s office we would proceed,” Jeremy Desel, the director of communications for TDCJ, said via a statement Wednesday.

The facility in question, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Manuel A. Segovia Unit in Edinburg, has a capacity to hold about 1,200, according to the agency’s website. It is close to the Hidalgo County jail and is operated by the state.

In July, a facility in Dilley, Texas, the Briscoe Unit, with a similar capacity of about 1,300 was cleared to begin transfers of immigrants arrested on state trespassing charges.

Preparation would be needed ahead of the change at Segovia.

Although the Texas Commission on Jail Standards referred The Monitor to the governor’s office for comment, records obtained via an open records request show three officials, including the executive director, visited the facility on Aug. 10 for “coordination efforts.”

Before changes are made to the Segovia unit, they will need to be in compliance with standards from the commission.

“Like the Briscoe Unit, staff would be retained, trained, and licensed as jailers and any necessary alterations to the unit would occur,” Desel added in his statement.

So far, the director of communications said 486 immigrants have been sent to the Briscoe unit.

The immigrants sent to the Segovia unit will likely not be from the Valley.

State trespassing charges do not result in incarceration unless the trespassing happened in a county that is part of the governor’s border disaster declaration. The declaration makes the penalty for trespassing a crime punishable by up to six months in jail.

The Valley counties notably abstained from signing onto Abbott’s plan. The two closest counties that are part of the plan include Zapata and Brooks counties.

The governor continues to double down on his plans and announced Tuesday that members of the National Guard, in addition to Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, can also arrest immigrants for trespassing on private property.

While both maintain a presence in the Valley, the declaration only applies to Zapata and Brooks counties.

Brooks County Sheriff Benny Martinez said Tuesday the National Guard does not currently have a presence in his county.

The governor’s office has yet to respond to a request for comment.