McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick who was instrumental in carrying out several “hard-line” immigration policies during the Trump administration, like zero-tolerance and border wall land condemnation cases, is stepping down as the chief law enforcement officer for the Southern District of Texas, his office announced Monday.
Patrick, who is son of Republican Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, had served in the role since January 2018. His resignation is effective on Feb. 28.
“In his first year alone, his office found itself at the forefront of a nationwide immigration debate,” his office said in a news release, which characterized him as “a prominent leader of the ever-increasing immigration debate.”
“He frequently discussed and addressed challenging border issues and protecting people from the harms associated with illegal immigration and human smuggling,” the statement said.
But migrant advocates claim that Patrick’s actions have led to the harsh treatment of asylum-seekers. And in the summer of 2018, he was in the center of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy, which led to the separation of thousands of migrant families and children, including those crossing into South Texas.
“While he was in that position, hundreds perhaps thousands of parents were separated from children in the Southern District of Texas and he is directly responsible for that,” said Efren Olivares, deputy legal director for immigrant justice at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“The statement that he was protecting people from the harms of illegal immigration is just a talking point from the hard-liners within certain circles so it is not surprising, but I’m hopeful that whoever takes the position will take a more humane and smart approach to the administration of criminal justice,” Olivares said.
Olivares pointed out that the crime rate along border cities, including the Southern District of Texas, “are some of the lowest in the country.”
Latest estimates are that over 600 migrant children remain separated from their families and in the care of U.S. Health and Human Services, nearly two years after they were removed from families who crossed illegally into the Southern border of the United States.
Since 2014, South Texas has been a hotspot for families to cross into, but the Trump administration tried to stop that trend by implementing the controversial zero-tolerance policy that resulted in the separation of families.
Under his leadership, the department also pursued hundreds of border landowners to give up right of entry onto their properties to survey the land for placement of a border wall.
Although the Biden administration has put a halt to the construction of the border wall, many cases still are pending in federal courts under Patrick’s jurisdiction.
Upon hearing that he was resigning, Melissa Cigarroa, a landowner in Zapata County who has been sued by Patrick’s assistants for the right of entry onto her border property exclaimed, “It’s fabulous! I’m assuming he’s the reason this all happened on my property after the election and after he knew the new administration would be taking a new direction.”
Cigarroa, who is president of the board for the Rio Grande International Studies Center in Laredo, Texas, said the land case against her continued under Patrick’s leadership “without even the ability to discuss other outcomes or consider other alternatives.”
Her case is scheduled for the Southern District Court in Laredo in early March, just days after Patrick is set to leave office.
Her parting words to him: “Don’t let the door slap you in the ass when you’re going out.”
Added Cigarroa: “I’m so happy that the Biden administration is righting wrongs.”