U.S. Briefs: Texas judge gives rioting immigrants a pass | WORLD
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U.S. Briefs: Texas judge gives rioting immigrants a pass

Charges against 211 people who rushed the border wall were dropped on a legal technicality

Omar Ornelas / El Paso Times via AP

U.S. Briefs: Texas judge gives rioting immigrants a pass
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Fact Box Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and World Atlas


Rioting charges against 211 immigrants who rushed the border wall near El Paso in March to illegally enter the United States were dismissed on a legal technicality May 8. Judge Ruben Morales said he lacked jurisdiction because the state didn’t provide a required transfer order to move the matter from district to county court. Morales previously dismissed rioting charges against another 141 people following an April incursion, saying the Department of Public Safety (DPS) lacked probable cause. DPS officers arrested the immigrants after they ripped down razor wire and injured Texas National Guard troops. After the March incident, Gov. Greg Abbott deployed an additional 700 guardsmen to the border. Once released to U.S. Border Patrol agents, the immigrants can seek asylum to avoid deportation. El Paso District Attorney Bill Hicks plans to appeal the judge’s decision. He also could refile the charges. If eventually convicted, the alleged rioters could face up to 180 days in jail or a $2,000 fine. —Todd Vician


The Shenandoah County school board voted May 9 to restore the names of Confederate generals to two local schools. In 2020, the board renamed the schools, originally named after Stonewall Jackson and Ashby Lee, to Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School. But some board members said their colleagues didn’t take the community’s opinions into account. The board held a public hearing to discuss reversing the change. Roughly equal numbers of local residents spoke for and against it. One said restoring the old names would be a racist act “rooted in mass resistance and Jim Crow segregation.” All but one of the school board members eventually voted to switch the names back. —Elizabeth Russell

Rhode Island

Patients at Bradley Hospital usually stay for about two weeks. But during the past six years, the state’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families wrongly institutionalized hundreds of mentally disabled children at the psychiatric facility for months, according to a federal report announced May 13. Between 2017 and 2022, the state sent 527 children to Bradley. Seven of them stayed for more than a year, and many remained long after their discharge orders, Biden administration officials said. The report concluded state officials did not provide appropriate placements for some discharged children. Rhode Island is investing around $45 million to expand residential capacity for mentally impaired patients. —Bekah McCallum

Ross D. Franklin/AP


Nearly one-third of homes on the Navajo Nation don’t have running water, but that could change if tribes and Congress agree to a proposed $5 billion water rights settlement. The action, introduced during a May 13 meeting of the Navajo Nation Council, would resolve claims that have lingered in court for years, largely because the Navajo have no decree rights to the Colorado River or Little Colorado River. A 2023 U.S. Supreme Court ruling said the federal government isn’t bound by tribal water treaties, making out-of-court settlements the best option. Congress has enacted nearly three dozen tribal water rights settlements across the country since 1978, with another 22 pending. The costliest to date is 2020’s $1.9 billion water rights settlement involving tribes in Montana. Navajo Nation Assistant Attorney General Michelle Espino acknowledged many found that amount surprising: “But that’s how much water development costs, especially nowadays.” Part of the Navajo settlement would fund a pipeline from Lake Powell that would deliver water to dozens of remote tribal communities. —Kim Henderson

John Barrow

John Barrow 11Alive screen grab


A candidate for Georgia’s Supreme Court filed a lawsuit May 6 claiming a state agency is violating his constitutional right to speak about abortion. John Barrow, a former Democratic congressman, says he believes the Georgia Constitution guarantees the same right to abortion as Roe v. Wade. Georgia currently bans most abortions after around 6 weeks of pregnancy. But the law faces legal challenges in the lower courts and may end up before the Georgia Supreme Court. The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission said Barrow’s comments violated a rule that prohibits judicial candidates from making commitments on how they will rule in possible future cases. Barrow’s lawsuit argues U.S. Supreme Court precedent from 2002 means he can speak out on abortion. “I have the constitutional right to speak my mind on the issues,” Barrow said in a statement. The election is scheduled for May 21. —Emma Freire

North Carolina

A three-judge federal appeals court panel sided with a Catholic high school that fired an English and drama teacher after he revealed plans to marry his same-sex partner. Lonnie Billard unveiled his engagement on Facebook just weeks after the state’s 2014 legalization of same-sex marriage. That violated Catholic doctrine and his terms of employment. After he was fired, Billard sued Charlotte Catholic High School for sex discrimination. While he prevailed in a lower court, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled. In a May 8 opinion, Circuit Judge Pamela Harris, a Biden appointee, relied on a broad application of the First Amendment–derived “ministerial exception” doctrine. It protects religious institutions from second-guessing employment decisions in regard to employees who serve “vital religious functions.” Harris concluded Billard met the test, even though he did not teach religion, as all teachers at the school were required to “model and promote Catholic faith and morals.” —Steve West


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