McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from the border city of El Paso, says the Department of Justice is investigating Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security initiative Operation Lone Star, following a report on Wednesday about the probe.
The Texas Tribune and ProPublica reported that the DOJ is looking into possible civil rights violations involving migrants during the 16-month-old Operation Lone Star, including improper detentions in insufficient holding facilities for trespassing arrests. According to memos and emails obtained by Texas Tribune and ProPublica, the Justice Department is investigating Operation Lone Star and whether it targets migrants based on their skin color, which violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Over 10,000 National Guard troops and troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety have been sent to the Texas-Mexico border as part of Operation Lone Star. Abbott has secured over $4 billion in state funding for the project, which he has said is necessary because the federal government is failing to secure the border region.
Border Report reached out to the Department of Justice and asked whether an investigation into Operation Lone Star was underway.
DOJ spokeswoman Angela Dodge told Border Report what she told the Tribune and ProPublica: “Generally, cases are brought to us by a variety of law enforcement agencies — federal, state and local — for possible prosecutorial consideration following their investigation into a suspected violation of federal law. We consider each such case based on the evidence and what can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a federal court of law. However, we cannot comment on the existence or lack thereof of any potential investigation or case on any matter not otherwise a part of the public court record.”
But Escobar on Wednesday afternoon issued a statement saying there is an investigation.
“After consistently raising concerns about the legalities of the operation and the well-being of our servicemembers, I look forward to the Justice Department’s findings into Greg Abbott’s political stunt,” Escobar said.
In January, Escobar, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, along other Texas Democrats, including several from the South Texas border, sent a letter to the Texas Military Department Inspector General asking for an investigation into the operations and treatment of the troops.
Her request came after reports that National Guard troops were committing suicide at an alarming rate and were living in sub-standard quarters along the border when assigned to Operation Lone Star.
The reports “necessitate an immediate impartial and comprehensive investigation of all TMD actions related to OLS and the conditions of National Guard troops deployed at the U.S.-Mexico border,” the lawmakers wrote. “It is clear State lawmakers do not have our troops best interest in mind. Instead they continue to use them as political props.”
“Governor Greg Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star” has been an unmitigated disaster. Billions of dollars have been wasted and the readiness of our troops has been eroded. Governor Abbott has used our servicemembers as a political tool – they and the people of Texas deserve better,” Escobar said Wednesday.
Abbott has repeatedly called Operation Lone Star a success, and he frequently updates apprehension arrest numbers and pounds of drugs seized along the border.
Last week, Abbott announced border security operations would be expanded following the death of 53 migrants who were found in a trailer in San Antonio — the nation’s deadliest smuggling episode on the U.S.-Mexico border.
This includes additional truck checkpoints along highway routes, as well as the deployment of “strike teams” consisting of 20 troopers to the Eagle Pass region to stop migrants from crossing the river from Mexico.
“President Biden needs to focus on addressing the humanitarian crisis his reckless leadership has created at the border,” Abbott said June 29 as he held a news conference on the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass.
“The Lone Star State will not sit idly by as the federal government chooses to ignore the historic number of illegal crossings, human smuggling, and drug trafficking of deadly fentanyl from Mexico into the United States. Our government has no greater responsibility than to provide public safety to its citizens. Until President Biden decides to uphold immigration laws passed by Congress, the State of Texas will continue utilizing every tool available to secure the border and keep Texans – and Americans – safe,” Abbott said.