McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Ten civil rights organizations have filed a joint discrimination complaint asking the Department of Justice to investigate Operation Lone Star, a law enforcement initiative headed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to deter illegal immigration on the Texas/Mexico border.
The ACLU of Texas, Latino Justice, Texas Civil Rights Project and Texas Fair Defense Project are among those on Wednesday that filed a Title VI complaint with the federal government alleging that Operation Lone Star is an “unlawful, racist and xenophobic system of state immigration enforcement in Texas.”
In a letter sent Wednesday to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, the agencies ask that the Department of Justice launch a formal investigation into the operation and end all federal funding received by Texas agencies and counties that are engaged in what they call a “discriminatory operation.”
Operation Lone Star began in March under Abbott’s direction and utilizes the Department of Public Safety, Texas National Guard, as well as support from National Guard sent from other states to several Texas border counties.
In September, Abbott signed into law over $1.8 billion for Texas border security efforts, which includes Operation Lone Star. Abbott has held steadfast in his belief that Texas must “secure” its borders and he has repeatedly faulted the Biden administration for “failing” to better prevent migrants from entering the country illegally.
“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. We will surge the resources and law enforcement personnel needed to confront this crisis,” Abbott said in March when he began Operation Lone Star.
Over 100 organizations supported the discrimination complaint, according to the letter. This included: Amnesty International USA, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Freedom Network USA, Human Rights Watch, RAICES, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and the Haitian Bridge Alliance.
In a call with media Wednesday, several of the groups said the surge of DPS troopers and National Guardsmen inflict undue harm on migrants and unfairly affects border communities.
Their discrimination complaint alleges the operation violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that bars discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
“They’ve created a nefarious state enforcement system to punish brown and black immigrants,” said Laura Peña, legal director of the Racial and Economic Justice Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “There’s real human suffering … as well as consequences to the border communities that are required to enforce it.”
Claudia Muñoz, co-executive director of Grassroots Leadership, said 1,500 migrants currently are in prison on arrest charges associated with Operation Lone Star.
She said some of their clients report being magistrated by judges “in parking lots” with hundreds of other migrants.
She said that after charges were dismissed for some migrants, they had to wait days for release, and then some say they were not released but handed over to U.S. Border Patrol agents who deported them.
“It is clear to us that local officials in Texas do not care about the rules,” Muñoz said. “They target migrants and disregard federal law.”
The complaint alleges that law enforcement lure migrants to trespass on private property and “have directed individuals near the border to a particular place – giving them the impression they have permission to be on the property – only then to arrest them for trespassing.”
Kate Huddleston, a lawyer with the ACLU of Texas, said “the program deliberately targets black and brown and LatinX migrants for punishment.” And she alleged that “arrests are often lacking in probable cause.”
“They languish in that system for extremely long periods of time, weeks or months on misdemeanor charges,” Huddleston said.
Border Report reached out to Gov. Abbott’s office for a response to the allegations. This story will be updated if additional information is received.
The letter also says law enforcement have “boasted on social media” about arrests.
Law enforcement say Operation Lone Star has helped to decrease the amount of drugs and migrants trafficked through Texas.
For the past nine months the operation has steadily been increasing in manpower and funding and support from other states. There has been a blockade of the Rio Grande formed off Starr County, and shipping containers were placed off the banks of Eagle Pass, Texas, to help block those trying to enter in between legal ports of entry.
“We’re here to repel and to block any criminal activity coming into the state,” Maj. Mike Perry of the Texas Military Department said Dec. 9 during a media briefing in Weslaco.
Perry said during the first week of this month officers with Operation Lone Star caused nearly 700 migrants to turn back to Mexico.
DPS Lt. Chris Olivarez said law enforcement through Operation Lone Star have, so far, stopped from crossing the border massive loads of fentanyl drugs — enough that could have killed 200 million people, he said Dec. 9.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at email@example.com.