More than 100 immigrant and civil rights advocacy groups are calling on the federal government to intervene in Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s border security initiative, Operation Lone Star.
Abbott and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) launched Operation Lone Star in March to combat the smuggling of people and drugs into Texas. The operation combines DPS and Texas National Guard assets to achieve its goals, allowing the agencies to arrest undocumented migrants who enter the US and charge them with trespassing.
“The crisis at our southern border continues to escalate because of Biden Administration policies that refuse to secure the border and invite illegal immigration,” said Governor Abbott in a press release announcing the launch of the operation.
“Texas supports legal immigration but will not be an accomplice to the open border policies that cause, rather than prevent, a humanitarian crisis in our state and endanger the lives of Texans,” Abbott continued.
Initially, ten groups, led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Texas Civil Rights Project, sent a 50-page letter to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) asking for federal funding to Texas agencies that participate in Operation Lone Star be cut off.
Now, more than 100 other immigrant and civil rights groups have signed onto the letter. The advocates’ primary contention is that the arrest of migrants for trespassing results in discrimination based on a person’s race or national origin.
“The state of Texas and participating counties have created and are carrying out what is, in reality, a system of state immigration enforcement that targets Black and Brown – primarily Latinx – individuals for prosecution and enhanced punishment,” the letter states.
The groups believe that Abbott’s operation and migrant arrests for trespassing violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in any program or agency receiving federal funding.
The evidence they cite is the arrest reports of migrants charged with trespassing. They point out that police often note that the individuals being arrested are Hispanic in the arrest reports.
They also pointed to stories that have been reported by the Texas Tribune, in which migrants say they were lured onto private property by police before being arrested. One case, caught on police body camera footage, shows an officer inviting a man onto private property before arresting him.
The letter requests that the DOJ investigate the operation and ultimately cut off all federal funding to the agencies who participated in the operation. Some of the agencies they listed include the governor’s office, state police, the state prison system, and the two border counties where the arrests have taken place.
The groups also allege civil rights violations after the migrants are arrested.
“Once arrested, individuals are placed in a separate criminal process and in separate detention compared to the ordinary process and detention system for those arrested on state misdemeanor criminal charges,” the letter says. “This separate system is rife with civil rights abuses, including failures to provide basic access to process that lead to people languishing in pretrial detention for weeks on misdemeanor trespass charges.”
In an email last week, Governor Abbott’s office told the Texas Tribune that the “new policy of arrest and jail, instead of President Biden’s catch and release program, [is] to stop this revolving door and deter others considering entering illegally.”
This fiscal year the Customs and Border Protection reported 1.66 million land border apprehensions in the American southwest from October 2020 to September 2021. Of this figure, roughly 1.15 million apprehensions occurred in Texas border patrol sectors, an average of 95,984 apprehensions per month.