Bastrop, TX – A traffic checkpoint in western Bastrop County led to the arrest of 13 illegal immigrants on Saturday, police said.
The routine operation was initiated after members of the community asked for an increased police presence in the area, Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook told the Statesman.
The sheriff responded by assigning three deputies to man the checkpoint, and two additional deputies assisted with the effort in between their regular calls for service, he said.
“This is a fairly routine operation that we do from time to time, nothing to do with targeting anybody,” Sheriff Cook, who is also a former head of the Texas Rangers, told the Statesman. “Not all of them were identified as illegal immigrants.”
A total of 63 motorists were pulled over for traffic violations during the operation, police said.
The deputies verified drivers’ license information, inquired about their places of birth, and asked at least one individual about their immigration status, Mexico’s consul for Austin, Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, told the Statesman.
The checkpoint netted 24 arrests for various offenses, such as driving while intoxicated.
Thirteen of those arrested were subsequently picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers for possible deportation.
Out of those 13 individuals, three were charged for driving while intoxicated. The remaining 10 drivers were arrested on driver’s license-related violations.
Three of the 13 people detained by ICE had previously been arrested in the state of Texas, the Statesman reported. Two were previously charged for driving while intoxicated, and the other individual had been arrested for leaving the scene of a motor vehicle crash.
As of Tuesday, seven illegal aliens had been deported and several others could soon follow suit, Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez blasted the community-requested operation and alleged that deputies had unfairly targeted illegal aliens traveling in the area.
“Mexico has been very clear that we do not feel it’s appropriate for police officers to do immigration work because that erodes the trust that immigrant communities should have with their police,” Gonzalez told the Statesman.
“There was clearly a special operation in the border between Bastrop and Travis, and there was clearly a decision not to cite and release the offenders of these traffic violations in case the officer suspected that they were undocumented,” he added. “We are very concerned that this takes to a new level the collaboration between police and immigration authorities.”
Earlier this month, the Austin City Council passed a measure to make Austin a “freedom city” in order to prevent the deportation of “non-violent” illegal aliens, the Statesman reported.
But that was in Austin, and Sheriff Cook said he had no intention of ending cooperation with federal officers in Bastrop County.
“The Bastrop County sheriff’s office is committed to supporting the Constitution of the United States and related laws in the furtherance of mutual cooperation among all law enforcement agencies who share a mutual interest in making our county a safe place to live, work, and raise our families,” he told the Statesman.