TEXAS — Civil rights groups, including the ACLU of Texas, Texas Civil Rights Project and Texas Fair Defense Project, on Wednesday filed a complaint with the Department of Justice over Texas’ Operation Lone Star border enforcement program.
The complaint argues that Gov. Greg Abbott’s program is discriminatory, described by the ACLU in a tweet as “racist and anti-immigrant.”
Launched in March of this year, Operation Lone Star directed the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas National Guard to the Texas-Mexico border with the goal, according to the governor’s office, of combating “the smuggling of people and drugs into Texas.”
At the time of launch, Gov. Abbott said the program was prompted by the Biden administration's failure to address the surge of migrant border crossings.
“The crisis at our southern border continues to escalate because of Biden Administration policies that refuse to secure the border and invite illegal immigration,” Abbott said. “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.”
According to the ACLU, the program unlawfully targets “migrants for arrest, jailing, and criminal prosecution for the state criminal offense of ‘trespassing.’”
The complaint alleges more than 2,200 people have been arrested through the program and that it set up a “separate criminal prosecution and detention system” for those arrested.
“The trespass arrests themselves are pretextual and regularly lack probable cause— including cases in which law enforcement has directed individuals to a certain location, only to then arrest them for trespass once they get there,” the complaint reads. “Arrest records show profiling based on race and national origin, including with numerous descriptions of observing or receiving reports of “undocumented migrants.” Virtually all if not all of those arrested to date are Latinx and Black men and are migrants.”
The ACLU says the complaint was filed with the support of more than 100 organizations and calls on the DOJ to investigate the program and “end federal funding to Texas state and local agencies found to engage in discrimination.”
In October, a group of Democratic lawmakers, in a similar move, called on the DOJ as well as the Department of Homeland Security to investigate what they called Abbott’s attempt to “establish a separate state immigration policy.”
RELATED: Democratic lawmakers call for investigation into Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star border enforcement program
In a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland, Democratic reps. Joaquin Castro, Veronica Escobar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and numerous others said the policy is “wreaking havoc on Texas’ judicial system.”
“’Operation Lone Star’ includes a roughly billion-dollar Texas law enforcement program designed by Governor Abbott to target suspected migrants for arrest, jailing, and criminal prosecution by state and local law enforcement for the Texas state misdemeanor offense of criminal trespass,” the letter states. “These operations have continued to militarize Texas’ border communities and interfered with the federal immigration system, likely violating the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. Even more egregiously, these programs have directly led to a violation of state laws and constitutional due process rights.”