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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

How aggressive border control tactics in Texas contributed to inaction during Uvalde shooting

Robb Elementary students were used to lockdowns. From February to May, the school in Uvalde, Texas, had been secured or locked down 47 times. When a lockdown alert came May 24 – the day an 18-year-old shooter killed 19 students and two teachers – many administrators, teachers and law enforcement responders initially assumed it was like the 47 other lockdowns, according to a report by the Texas House of Representatives outlining the most grievous failures during the shooting response. Lockdowns fostered a culture of complacency at the school, the report said. Almost all – 90% – of the security alerts earlier in the year came from “bailout” situations, when vehicles smuggling migrants lead authorities on high-speed chases that end when the vehicle crashes and the occupants scatter, the report said. Texas police and city leaders said the school lockdowns were necessary because of the dangerous nature of bailouts. Some experts said aggressive border control tactics contribute to hazardous pursuits, and there is little evidence that the general public is at risk from the migrants. WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE UVALDE REPORT:Experts say errors led to 'disaster' RUN, HIDE, FIGHT:School shooter drills can be traumatic, but do they work? 'Going to have complacency set in' Data on bailouts is sparse, but more than half of U.S. Customs and Border Protection encounters with migrants this fiscal year occurred in Texas, according to CBP data. School lockdowns in response to bailouts are common practice throughout Texas but happen more often in border communities, said North Richland Hills Police Chief Jimmy Perdue, president of the Texas Police Chiefs Association. “It's good law enforcement practice that if you have a bailout situation near a school, you’re going to lock down the school for safety and security reasons," Perdue told USA TODAY. "And if you do that, if you're in an area where this occurs on a regular frequent basis, then you're going to have complacency set in.” The bailout alarms sounded so frequently at Robb Elementary that when Uvalde Police Sgt. Daniel Coronado walked into the school May 24 during the shooting and didn’t immediately see injured students in the hallway, he believed it was probably a bailout situation, he testified. WILL CALLS FOR POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY BE ANSWERED?Legal experts say pursuing charges could prove difficult. The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District's police chief, Pete Arredondo, who was criticized for failing to assume command during the chaotic police response to the shooting, testified in the report that the possibility of a bailout “came over my mind at some point.” He said the alerts were necessary because border smugglers' passengers would scatter everywhere, and school district police did not want them coming on campus. The frequency of "less-serious bailout-related alerts" in the town, the report said, "diluted the significance of alerts and dampened everyone’s readiness to act on alerts." The report released Sunday cited examples of high-speed driving that crossed school parking lots, as well as reports of bailout incidents involving firearms in neighborhoods surrounding the school. There have been no incidents of bailout-related violence on Uvalde public school grounds. Some experts said the high-speed chases heighten the risk for border communities. "Border Patrol doggedly pursues these undocumented people in a way that can often be life-threatening, even though the people aboard that vehicle have not committed more than just the administrative crime of being in the United States undocumented," said Adam Isacson, who directs the Washington Office on Latin America’s Defense Oversight program. 'Police best practice is not to engage in a high-speed chase near a school' “A police best practice is not to engage in a high-speed chase near a school or any other area that puts the life of the public at risk,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director for the Southern Border Communities Coalition. Gaubeca attributed the aggressive police response to stringent border policies. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has deployed thousands of Department of Public Safety officers and Texas National Guard troops to the southern border to arrest and detain migrants crossing illegally from Mexico, bolstering federal immigration enforcement – a program critics say is unconstitutional. “Gov. Abbott is the one who's contributing to this problem by creating a narrative that isn't reality on the ground,” Gaubeca said. “The reality on the ground is the place is oversaturated with law enforcement. The borders have been hyper-militarized.” Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin spoke at a news conference July 5 with county officials who announced emergency declarations about safety on the border. Many officials described the increased flow of migrants across the border as "the invasion." McLaughlin said bailouts endangered students, alleging an influx of “pedophiles, convicted murderers, drug dealers” and “gang members.” Shaw Drake, the staff attorney and policy counsel for border and immigrants’ rights at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said it's the high-speed chases that are dangerous. Drake tracks deaths resulting from Border Patrol vehicle pursuits and said that from 2019 to 2021, the number of deaths increased 11-fold, to 23 last year. This year is on track to become the deadliest on record, he said. "Pursuing vehicles in such a dangerous fashion does present dangers for the general public," Drake told USA TODAY. "But it presents that from the results of the dangerous law enforcement activity of chasing vehicles, not at all anything that any individual has done after bailing out of a vehicle." For more information, contact us at: http://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/index.html

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