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Political Litigation

Lawsuit: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star” Violates Migrants’ Rights

— April 29, 2022

An attorney for several migrants said her clients were kept in custody after they posted bond–and even after prosecutors dropped charges against them.

A group of immigrants have filed a lawsuit against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, claiming the Republican’s controversial border security mission, Operation Lone Star, has violated their civil rights.

According to KUT90.5, each of the migrants were arrested and charged with criminal trespass in Kinney County, which shares a border with Mexico.

In their lawsuit, the migrants claim that they were held in custody even after they posted bond and even after prosecutors dropped charges against them.

Attorney Angelica Cogliano, who is representing the plaintiffs, told The Texas Newsroom that her clients suffered unconstitutional abuses.

“Even if Operation Lone Star was constitutional because they were just enforcing their own state criminal laws, then they still need to follow the laws of our state criminal justice system,” Cogliano said. “And those laws are that once somebody’s criminal case has concluded … then there’s no jurisdiction to hold them anymore. They have to be released from custody.”

Pictured: A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle along the the US-Mexico border. Image via Pixnio/Public Domain.

Cogliano observed that her clients are clearly being discriminated against.

“And the way you know that is because [the migrants] are being prosecuted for that state-level crime differently than anybody else in the state gets prosecuted for that state-level crime,” she said.

The lawsuit names as defendants Gov. Abbott, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Col. Steven McGraw, Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Bryan Collier, and Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe.

Operation Lone Star, adds KXAN, was launched in March of 2021 by the state Department of Safe.

As part of the operation, Gov. Abbott has dispatched nearly 10,000 Texas National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Guardsmen deployed to the frontier have been tasked with building barriers, conducting routine patrols, and arresting migrants.

KUT notes that Operation Lone Star has mobilized by about half of the Texas National Guard’s active-duty reserves.

Since the operation began, many guardsmen have complained about working conditions on the border; several have committed suicide.

A 2022 analysis conducted by The Texas Tribune, ProPublica, and the Marshall Project found that the project costs Texas taxpayers an estimated $2.5 million per week, or nearly $1 billion per year.

When migrants are caught by guardsmen or other border security forces, they are charged with criminal trespass—in some cases because they traversed private property while entering the United States.

However, the lawsuit alleges that most arrests carried out under Operation Lone Star “regularly lack probable cause,” with most detained migrants being “Latino and Black men,”

The program, says the complaint, is “violating the targeted individuals’ constitutional rights and attempting to invade a field of immigration enforcement occupied by the federal government.”

The plaintiffs have requested damages in excess of $5 million.


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