Texas began confining migrant women in state prisons after sex discrimination lawsuits were filed against the state for targeting men under its border crackdown, the Texas Tribune reports. The state has sent women arrested under Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star to a state prison in Edinburg since last week. By Tuesday, 25 women, mostly accused of trespassing, were being held at the Lopez State Jail, which typically houses men convicted of low-level crimes. It’s been two years since state troopers began arresting migrants en masse. Abbott ordered state police to jail people suspected of illegally crossing the border on misdemeanor trespassing charges. The state cleared out two prisons to detain these misdemeanor defendants, who are not yet convicted of any crime. Soon, thousands of migrants caught on private ranchland or at railyards had been swept into Texas’ new criminal justice system specifically erected for them.
Troopers were instructed to arrest only single men they encountered, turning women and families over to the U.S. Border Patrol, leading to legal challenges by migrants' advocates claiming violations of equal protection. Last September, a state district judge tossed out trespassing charges against six migrant men, siding with defense attorneys who argued the state was unconstitutionally discriminating against men by not arresting women or children. The Texas Department of Public Safety changed course, telling troopers in December to begin arresting single, female migrants. Troopers are still told not to arrest minors, adults over 65 or families. Defense lawyers say the change appears to be a direct response to sex discrimination lawsuits. As of Saturday, DPS said more than 105 women had been arrested for allegedly trespassing in five border counties.