Texas Attorney General Investigating San Antonio Human Smuggling Incident

Jan 11, 2018

The Texas attorney general is launching an investigation into how San Antonio handled a human smuggling incident last month. The attorney general’s office sent a letter to the city asking it to preserve all records and information related to the release of 12 migrants who were found in a trailer.


In the letter sent Wednesday night, Assistant Attorney General Cleve Doty said the Texas attorney general’s office received several citizen complaints on the release of the migrants who may be in the country illegally.

“The Texas attorney general's office will investigate these complaints and the procedure in Senate Bill 4 contemplates litigation. As a result, we demand that you affirmatively preserve all relevant materials,” he said.

On Dec. 23, San Antonio police found a trailer with 12 people inside. Police Chief William McManus charged the driver with a state level human smuggling charge but did not pursue a federal charge. After questioning at police headquarters, the migrants were released and several went with Catholic Charities. This comes several months after 10 immigrants died in a trailer in a separate incident last summer.

During a press conference for Human Trafficking Awareness Month on Thursday, San Antonio police and the city confirmed receiving the letter and said they would comply with requests to preserve information. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the city had no legal basis to hold the migrants and could have faced legal liability if the police had held them.

 

 

“The attacks on Police Chief McManus are nothing more than political theater based on a fictitious narrative,” Nirenberg said.

McManus said Homeland Security was on the scene but did not take the migrants into custody.

“Why they didn’t take custody, I don’t know,” he said. “But we handled the prosecution of the smuggling/trafficking incident under the state statute; there’s a line drawn, and on the other side of it is the immigration issue, and that immigration issue is up to (Homeland Security Investigations) not SAPD,” McManus said Thursday.

He added there was no legal reason to hold the migrants.

 

“I broke no protocols,” he said. “I did exactly what my chiefly prerogatives allowed me to do.”

 

Senate Bill 4 blocks police departments and other law enforcement in the state from instituting policies that forbid officers from asking about someone’s immigration status while detained. It also requires jails to comply with immigration detention orders, among other provisions. San Antonio was the first major city to file suit, and parts of the law were struck down but litigation is still pending. The law also allows people to file complaints if a jurisdiction violated parts of SB4.

 

San Antonio District 4 Councilman Rey Saldana was also listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

 

“We welcome a complete and swift investigation to further prove that our San Antonio Police Department and Police Chief William McManus are guilty of one thing: doing their job,” Saldana said in a statement. “As state leaders have sought to expand the role of our SAPD officers into the realm of immigration enforcement.

 

“Chief McManus, with 43 years of experience, will continue doing his job leading a department focused on ensuring public safety. The sooner we complete the review, the quicker we can get back to protecting our communities by preventing and combatting (sic) crime.”

 

Joey Palacios can be reached at joey@tpr.org or on Twitter at @joeycules