(Washington)—Texans impacted by Gov. Greg Abbott’s racist Operation Lone Star were joined by immigration advocates Tuesday demanding the Biden Administration and the Department of Homeland Security immediately stop allowing federal funds and other assistance be used to support this harmful scheme.
“We are in DC to be heard, everyone needs to know about Operation Lone Star,” said Liz Castillo, Senior Organizer with Detention Watch Network. “Every day that this policy is allowed to continue is not just another day of more harm to migrants, it’s another day that we risk seeing this policy could be replicated in other states across the country if Biden does not act.”
Gov. Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March 2021 in what he claimed was a need to beef up security along the southern border. The Texas Legislature has dedicated nearly $4 billion to this scheme that has seriously harmed border communities. Today, Gov. Abbott escalated his dangerous attacks on immigrant communities by invoking the invasion clauses of not just the Texas state constitution, but the U.S. Constitution. As the Biden Administration remains silent and complicit with Operation Lone Star, Gov. Abbott is clearly taking increasingly violent and extremist actions.
Jennefer Canales-Pelaez, Texas Policy Attorney & Strategist with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, called on DHS to review any funding and resources used to support Operation Lone Star counties and to “cut the ties” that support this operation.
“The U.S. Treasury Department has opened an inquiry relating to Gov. Abbott’s misuse of Covid relief dollars to fund OLS,” Canales-Pelaez said. “Secretary Mayorkas, I now turn to you, stop the usage of DHS resources aiding Abbott’s racist operation.”
ILRC was joined by Detention Watch Network, Human Rights Watch, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Border Network for Human Rights, Texas Civil Rights Project and other groups making the following demands:
- An end to Customs and Border Protection’s use of resources to aid Operation Lone Star
- An end to complicit ICE tactics of expediting the deportation of those transferred to their custody due to Operation Lone Star
Several Texas residents spoke of Operation Lone Star’s impact, including Roberto Mejia Perez who spent nearly a year in custody after being picked up and detained. Mejia Perez spoke of the mistreatment and humiliation he experienced.
“I was told I was less than an insect,” Mejia Perez said. “I still have nightmares about my time in custody.”
Gage Brown, a Kinney County resident spoke of how her small border community has been turned into a war zone.
“High speed chases occur at all hours of the day and night as police chase carloads of suspected migrants at high speeds,” Brown said. “These chases have killed several people already, all of them migrants. Why are they being treated like wild game to be hunted?”
Liz Rohana, who works with Border Network for Human Rights, said Operation Lone Star funds would be much better spent to better the lives of all Texans.
“My community needs health and mental care services, we need jobs,” Rohana said.
Alicia Torres of Grassroots Leadership discussed the two-week humanitarian mission that 27 organizations participated in to witness Operation Lone Star abuses.
“In Texas we have been fighting to end Operation Lone Star since it began. During our mission we collectively witnessed hyper-policing of border communities, the very active and willing collaboration between state police and DHS,” Torres said.
Castillo pointed out that today in Austin, the Texas Senate Border Committee was holding a hearing on Operation Lone Star.
“Again, Gov. Abbott may be the lead driver but he is not doing this alone,” Castillo said. “All federal collaboration must be ended now.”
The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) is a national nonprofit that works with immigrants, community organizations, legal professionals, and policy makers to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people. Through community education programs, legal training & technical assistance, and policy development & advocacy, the ILRC works to protect and defend the fundamental rights of immigrant families and communities. Follow us at www.ilrc.org, and on Twitter and Instagram @the_ILRC