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More Than 100 Organizations Call On DHS To Stop Colluding With Cruel And Likely Illegal Operation Lone Star

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America’s Voice is among more than 100 human, civil and immigrant rights organizations that have signed a letter authored by the National Immigration Project urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to end collaboration with Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s inhumane and likely illegal Operation Lone Star. 

While the border operation has been a multi-billion dollar, politically motivated effort implemented by Texas, it has in recent weeks torn apart immigrant families at the southern border. This practice by state authorities “relies on the cooperation” of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, groups said.

“Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers have stopped and corralled parents with children near the border, arresting the fathers on trespassing charges and turning the mothers and children over to Border Patrol agents,” the letter states. “DPS officers take the fathers into state criminal custody while Border Patrol agents take the mothers and children into CBP custody, separating vulnerable families and leaving them with virtually no way to communicate or reunite with one another.” 

But despite disturbing reports going back to 2021 that some migrants were marched to private property for arrest on trespassing charges while others were illegally jailed for weeks and months without any formal charges, DHS agencies have not “forcefully disavowed the program or acknowledged the deep harms of Texas’s racist and unlawful enforcement operation,” groups continue in the letter. 

The “devastating” practice of family separation by Texas “demonstrates that CBP continues to collude with DPS officers in the implementation of Operation Lone Star,” they said.

“In recent months, we’ve seen Governor Greg Abbott employ new and increasingly dangerous and deadly tactics as part of his illicit Operation Lone Star program,” said National Immigration Project Executive Director Sirine Shebaya, referencing the dangerous, and possibly illegal, floating saw blades installed by Texas along the Rio Grande. “The federal government has a clear responsibility to not only cease collaboration with Texas officials on Operation Lone Star but also to push back on this unthinkable cruelty.”

The call follows a July letter from more than 80 House Democrats, including chairs of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, urging President Biden to “assert your authority over federal immigration policy and foreign relations and investigate and pursue legal action, as appropriate, related to stop Governor Abbott’s dangerous and cruel actions.”

Operation Lone Star “has resulted in hundreds of unlawful arrests and egregious human rights violations,” lawmakers said. “Governor Abbott’s actions have escalated in recent months with Texas state troopers illegally erecting a makeshift buoy wall and placing sharp razor wire in the Rio Grande River, creating death traps for migrants and violating U.S. treaty commitments with Mexico.” 

To its credit, the Biden administration did quickly file a lawsuit over Abbott’s floating saw blades, with a U.S. district judge in Austin hearing arguments in the case last week. Texas has defended its action by deploying debunked white nationalist legal theory that Texas is experiencing a hostile ”invasion.” Outside the courtroom, border residents gathered to urge the Department of Justice to go even further, including launching formal probes into the operation’s illegal arrests and human rights violations, such as family separation. 

Abbott has also grotesquely defended his cynical policy of busing migrants to regions controlled by Democrats just days after the recent death of a three-year-old child who was being sent from Texas to Chicago. Jismary Alejandra Barboza González, who set out from Colombia with her family in May, would have turned four this month. At least one other child had to be hospitalized immediately after an Abbott-sponsored bus trip last year. 

Operation Lone Star is violent, cruel, expensive, ineffective, dangerous and will continue to lead to these kinds of tragedies if it is not stopped immediately.

“Left unchecked, these hateful policies and inhumane treatment will only continue to escalate,” Shebaya continued in a statement. “As a nationwide membership organization, we will continue working with our members and partners in Texas and across the country to put an end to these horrific human and civil rights abuses.”