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Texas Border Residents Urge End To Operation Lone Star Scheme As Rio Grande Buoy Installation Goes To Court

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Texans, including border residents, gathered on Tuesday to demand an end to Governor Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star scheme, which for two years and counting has wreaked havoc on both border communities and vulnerable migrants seeking new lives in the U.S. In the past several weeks alone, Texas officials have illegally installed floating saw blades designed to hurt and kill along the Rio Grande and separated migrant families as a three-year-old child aboard a bus of migrants sent by Abbott died heading from Texas to Chicago.

The border community members protested Operation Lone Star – itself likely also unlawful – outside an Austin courtroom, where a U.S. district judge was set to hear arguments in a new lawsuit challenging the floating saw blades barrier. They urged the Department of Justice to probe the operation for its inhumane practices.  

“We are here to demand that the DOJ investigate all of the civil rights violations at the border,” said Robie Flores of the Eagle Pass Border Coalition, which cosponsored the event with Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Grassroots Leadership, La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), Human Rights Watch, The Border Organization, and Poder Latinx. “Operation Lone Star doesn’t work.”

Despite the massive spending – $4.5 billion and counting – Operation Lone Star’s efficacy is unclear, as we recently noted. What the policy has done is separate dozens of migrant fathers, detaining them on state trespassing charges. But there have been disturbing reports going back to 2021 that migrants were marched to private property, and then arrested. Migrants have also been jailed without any charges for weeks and months at a time, in violation of state law.

Tuesday’s hearing in Austin “will consider whether Texas can keep a floating barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border,” the Associated Press reported. But most of the floating saw blade barrier has actually been in Mexican territory, according to documents filed as part of the lawsuit. “Texas’ leaders have declared that the state is experiencing an ‘invasion’ of people at the border, but a U.S.-Mexico agency says the state is the one doing the invading,” NBC News reported

Just 208 feet of the nearly 800 foot long barrier has been in U.S. territory. The AP reported that as the state and federal government were set to go to court, Texas officials “repositioned the wrecking ball-sized buoys closer to U.S. soil.” Nothing shady going on here, folks. Meanwhile, not only has Abbott been violating Mexico’s sovereignty, he’s done it while deploying debunked white nationalist legal theory. This type of dehumanizing, unfounded rhetoric has actually inspired numerous acts of domestic terrorism.

“The harm and loss of life caused directly by the buoys and razor wire are undoubtedly real,” LUPE and Grassroots Leadership said. “HOWEVER, as a community that has been consistently sounding the alarm on Operation Lone Star, we know that if the buoys and razor wire are to be PERMANENTLY removed, Operation Lone Star must END.” Advocates are calling for the removal of floating saw blades and formal probes into illegal arrests and human rights violations, including family separations.

“This Governor doesn’t want to live in a state of facts,” Texas state Senator Roland Gutierrez said on Tuesday. “The fact is these are people looking for a dream under international laws, looking for asylum.” Abbott’s policies have even been facing some opposition from former die-hards, The New York Times said. Eagle Pass’ mayor publicly supported Operation Lone Star but has “soured on the more aggressive tactics lately on display.”

“Let’s be clear. Our state’s policy choices, led by Gov. Abbott, are inflicting harm on people, including toddlers,” Mario Carrillo, Texas-based Campaigns Manager for America’s Voice, said in a recent statement. “My heart breaks at the report of another avoidable loss of a child due to the inhumane policy. Operation Lone Star is not working, and only fuels relentless attacks on immigrants. This latest tragedy is symptomatic of the overall dangers that are manifesting from the spiral of nativist rhetoric coming from GOP leaders who are trying to tap into their anti-immigrant voter base.”