First of 51 immigrants makes bond after 'Operation Cross Check'
The first of 51 undocumented immigrants detained locally by immigration officials during Operation Cross Check has made bond. Juan Pablo Covarrubias of Austin is one of the 28 detained who did not have criminal histories.
A federal immigration judge in San Antonio offered Covarrubias an $8,000 bond Wednesday. Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Justice records show just how backed up that immigration court is.
Family members tell CBS Austin Covarrubias has been in the United States since he was 12 years old and that he works as a painter to support several family members.
"He's [in Austin], because he's supporting his mother," said Jose Paz-Llamas, Covarrubias' uncle.
On February 9, Paz-Llamas received a call from his nephew's phone, but it wasn't his nephew on the other end. It was a woman to whom Covarrubias had given his phone when U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) agents detained him.
"And then she told me, 'your nephew, he got arrested by immigration,'" said Paz-Llamas.
Paz-Llamas immediately drove to North Lamar and Airport Boulevard, where it happened, but he was too late to try to help.
"By the time I got over there, only his truck was there," said Paz-Llamas.
He says that because his nephew left Mexico at such a young age, he wouldn't know how to get by there. He also worries about violence and cartels, and he worries for his family too.
"I don't want him to be deported, because he's the only support for his family," Paz-Llamas said.
Covarrubias has been in a detention center in Pearsall, Texas, for three weeks. His attorney, Stephen O'Connor, has been working to get him released.
"I think he's more concerned about how his family members are doing without him. He's a breadwinner for a lot of members of his family," said O'Connor.
O'Connor says the way his client was picked up was unconstitutional, and he will try to prove that when they get a court date.
"He was driving to work, and ICE set up on the house, and followed each of the three roommates in the house," O'Connor said.
He also says Covarrubias was collateral damage.
"They wanted numbers, they wanted to send Austin a message," says O'Connor.
According to records obtained by CBS Austin, as of January 31, 2017, 542,646 immigration cases were backlogged in courts across the country.
The San Antonio court, which handles Austin cases, is the 6th most backlogged out of 58 courts, with 27,194 pending cases -- some with 2019 court dates. O'Connor says cases from "Operation Cross Check" are not the type of cases that get postponed.
"They're more the border-crossing cases, where there was a surge in violence in Central America -- a lot of woman and children," says O'Connor.
President Donald Trump ordered the courts to fast-track criminal immigration cases, and since Covarrubias was lumped in with those cases, he could be out within the week.
"I hope, and I've been praying to God for him to be released here, and I'm pretty sure he's going to be released," says Paz-Llamas.