Texas under federal investigation for unconstitutional arrests of migrants, with help of Christian nationalist militia
Civil rights probe
The Justice Department is conducting an investigation into Texas’ Operation Lone Star for allegedly violating the civil rights of migrants.
Operation Lone Star is the name given to a multibillion-dollar border initiative launched last year by Gov. Greg Abbott (R), ostensibly meant to combat human and drug smuggling. However, by the state’s own admission, Lone Star has resulted largely in misdemeanor trespassing arrests with no relation to border security.
According to the ACLU and other NGOs, Abbott directed the Texas National Guard to put up new fences in border counties “in order to create the conditions for criminal trespass charges where they did not exist before.” In some instances, “law enforcement agents have directed individuals to private property,” giving them the impression that they have permission to be on the property, and then arrested them.
Nearly all arrests from Operation Lone Star are of Black and Brown men, showing clear indications of profiling based on race and national origin. Once detained for trespassing, over half spend more than 30 days in jail; by contrast, “normal” trespassing charges typically result in sentences of roughly 15 days. The most recent letters to the Justice Department from the ACLU note that detention times are continuing to increase—in some cases to over 170 days—while the conditions at state prisons used to hold detainees are deteriorating:
April 2022: Several people reported witnessing physical abuse, and fear of direct assaults by guards. Events that Segovia Arrestees witnessed included: a person detained under OLS being struck in the head by a guard; another person being punched in the chest for attempting to refill his water cup without a shirt on; and a third person being pepper sprayed by a guard without justification for doing so.
February 2022:: A lack of adequate medical care at both prisons has put detained people’s lives and well-being at risk. Several detained people have reported a continued lack of in-person medical treatment from doctors or nurses. Instead, any illness is treated with what appears to be Tylenol. At least one prison is not practicing adequate COVID safety, including failure to comply with CDC isolation guidance. Detained people suffering from mental illness are also denied necessary treatment or attention. One detained person watched another detained individual, who appeared to be mentally ill, scoop garbage into a cup and drink the mixture as guards watched and did nothing.
The media learned of the DOJ investigation through internal emails discussing the probe obtained with the Texas Public Information Act.
In an internal email in May, DPS officials said that the DOJ was seeking to review whether Operation Lone Star violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin by institutions receiving federal funding.
According to the emails, the federal government requested documents that include implementation plans, agreements with landowners and training information for states that have supported Operation Lone Star by sending law enforcement officers and National Guard members to Texas…In a letter sent Friday to the state’s attorney general, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice also cited a “formal investigation” of Operation Lone Star by the DOJ. The agency, which manages the state’s prison system, pointed to the investigation while fighting the release of public records sought by the news organizations.
White supremacist vigilantes
In case there was any doubt that Operation Lone Star is motivated by racist animus, the Texas National Guard is working with a Christian nationalist militia to intercept and detain migrants in some border counties. Patriots for America is a Texas-based vigilante group, often dressed in camo body armor and carrying rifles, that purports to “protect communities” and “[c]onduct rescue missions helping to fight the battle of exploited and sex trafficked children.”
Filled with a Pizzagate- and QAnon-esque sense of conspiracy, the militia suspects all migrants of being part of globalist scheme to sexually assault children:
In 2015, watching Trump rallies, [Patriots for America leader Samuel] Hall got the idea to start a militia to protect conservative protesters. Shortly thereafter, he became obsessed with what he believes is an epidemic of child sex trafficking driven by a cabal of elitist pedophiles. He listened to audio of a possible sexual assault on a minor that had been posted on a PFA social media page. “I was praying in tongues,” Hall recently told prospective PFA donors, recounting the experience. “After about thirty minutes, a light bulb clicked over my head, and I believe it was the Holy Spirit.”
Hall and militia members began to track those whom he suspected were sex offenders. Though law enforcement officials followed up on some of Hall’s tips, they could not corroborate his accusations and did not pursue legal action.
The Texas National Guard sets the militia to work, briefing them on where migrants may be located and allowing them to patrol the area without oversight. When immigrants are found, militia members are often permitted to question them and record their responses on video, which is later posted to the militia’s Facebook page.
Like Hall, who believes that the Democrats’ “plan is to flood our nation with illegal immigrants in hopes that they vote in 2024,” top Texas officials have also used the great replacement theory to justify Operation Lone Star. Kinney County (one of the counties partnered with the militia) Attorney Brent Smith said on a podcast that the federal government is “probably” allowing migrants to come to the United States “for repopulation of the country–trying to change the societal structure of the country,” along with “votes” and money for lobbyists.
Not one to be deterred from potential unconstitutional behavior, Gov. Abbott (R) ordered the Texas National Guard and the state police to apprehend migrants and take them to the border, a move that infringes on the federal government’s authority to enforce immigration law.
“I have authorized the Texas National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety to begin returning illegal immigrants to the border to stop this criminal enterprise endangering our communities,” continued Governor Abbott. “As the challenges on the border continue to increase, Texas will continue to take action to address those challenges caused by the Biden Administration.”
Abbott’s order comes as numerous Texas counties declared “an invasion” at the border. Kinney, Goliad, Terrell, Jeff Davis, Edwards, Presidio Counties and the City of Uvalde—all of which participate in Operation Lone Star—claim that Biden’s “open border policies” have wreaked havoc in border communities. Both Title 42 and Remain in Mexico are still in place (the latter for a couple of weeks), making the border far from open.