Report: Justice Department investigates Texas Border Mission
The US Department of Justice is investigating possible civil rights abuses in a multibillion-dollar border security mission in Texas that gave the National Guard powers of arrest and saw authorities of the state take migrants to Washington, D.C., according to public records.
An attorney for the state police agency acknowledged the federal investigation into Gov. Greg Abbott’s initiative to stop people crossing into Mexico in a May email, records obtained by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune show. The state prison system also cited an “official investigation” in a letter seeking to withhold public records related to Operation Lone Star.
The investigation comes to light as a human smuggling attempt that left 53 dead in a stuffy tractor-trailer highlights the limits of state and federal border controls. Crossings along the entire southern border have been at or near their highest point for about two decades.
Last year, Abbott, a Republican seeking re-election, deployed a massive law enforcement apparatus to the border, alleging inaction by President Joe Biden’s administration. The surge in officers has led to arrests including trespassing, low amounts of marijuana and other petty offenses that appear to have little to do with border security. Some of these detainees spent weeks in state prisons.
Emails from Texas Department of Public Safety officials say federal authorities are investigating whether the operation may have violated a law against discrimination based on race, color or national origin by organizations receiving funding federal.
A spokesperson for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division declined to comment. A Texas Department of Public Safety spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice provided information about Operation Lone Star to Justice Department officials after their request in March, according to spokeswoman Amanda Hernandez. She said the state prison system “has and continues to abide by all state and federal laws as the State of Texas responds to the ongoing border crisis.”
Since April, Abbott has also offered migrants bus rides to Washington, DC, saying he is bringing the issue of immigration to the doorstep of Congress. So far, around 3,000 migrants have made the journey at a cost of over $5 million.
The efforts have not stopped a recent increase in crossings at the southern border. Authorities stopped migrants from crossing illegally 523,000 times between January and May, compared to 417,000 in the same period a year ago.