Update: May 8 — Police records now available indicate that Castro-Garcia and Mata were released on personal recognizance bonds on the same day as their arrests.
After Gov. Abbott announced that he was retroactively prohibiting confinement as a punishment for disobeying his COVID-19 executive orders — specifically mentioning the two women arrested in Laredo — the district attorney in Laredo is reportedly not prosecuting their cases.
Laredo Police Department reportedly received tips of the two women soliciting business on social media through the department’s mobile application, which has an option on the tip form particularly for violations of the special COVID-19 order.
Undercover police reportedly made contact with Ana Isabel Castro-Garcia, 31 years old, who allegedly agreed to provide the officer with nail services out of her own home.
Police arrested her after she offered her services.
A similar arrest was made of Brenda Stephany Mata, 20, who offered to provide eyelash services to undercover police.
Both women were reportedly transported to the Webb County Jail.
“We remind the community that there is an emergency management plan in place in order to control the spread of the novel COVID-19 virus. Laredo police officers continue to address violations of the order with enforcement,” the police reportedly stated.
Not straying from the order issued by Governor Greg Abbott, “barbershops, hair, nail, tanning and skincare salons, [and] any other beauty servicing business” are considered non-essential services under the emergency order put in place by the Laredo City Council and are strictly prohibited.
The Laredo order also places a curfew on residents between 10:00 PM and 5:00 AM for anyone not performing an essential activity.
Under the current city order, violators of the ordinance are subject to a Class B misdemeanor (except for violations of the face-covering mandate, which is considered a Class C misdemeanor) and a fine of up to $1,000 or confinement of up to 180 days.
When the city council debated the emergency order on March 31, some members of the city council argued over what the fine for violations should be.
On the mask order, Mayor Pro Tempore Alberto Torres motioned for individual violations to be capped at $50.
However, Council Member George Altgelt disagreed, arguing that the fees needed to be consistent with other violations and more draconian so that the public knows “these directives are not requests but are orders.”
Council Member Mercurio Martinez contended that especially with the loss of jobs amidst the lockdown, some people can barely afford a $50 dollar fine let alone a $1,000 penalty. He suggested that the fine be set low for now and increased later if there is a lack of compliance.
After a suggestion that the Municipal Court Judge would have the discretion to lower the fine amount required from violators, all city council members voted in favor of the higher fine limit.
Since then, the Laredo Police have been busy enforcing the rules of the order.
On Good Friday alone, for instance, the department said that it had received 82 complaints of violations, conducted 960 business checks, and issued 151 citations.
A total number of citations, arrests, and the average fine amount is unclear.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.