Use this button to switch between dark and light mode.

TX Gov. Abbott's Operation Lone Star: $11 Billion Dollar Failure

May 23, 2024 (2 min read)

ACLU of Texas, May 22, 2024

"The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and ACLU Analytics published a report today that reveals Governor Greg Abbott’s state immigration enforcement program, Operation Lone Star (OLS), has failed its mission.

The $11.2 billion program was created in 2021 to prevent migrants from allegedly bringing drugs and crime into Texas from across the border. But the state’s own data indicates that’s not the case. Instead, as the report shows, the unconstitutional operation is primarily racially profiling and arresting people who pose no threat to public safety, then forcing them into a separate and unequal criminal legal system.

The report titled “Operation Lone Star: Misinformation and Discrimination in Texas Border Enforcement” analyzes arrest data from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and court data from the Office of Court Administration of the Texas Judicial System (OCA) between 2021 and 2023, which was obtained through open record requests.

Key findings include:

  • OLS demonstrates racial profiling and unconstitutional policing. Arrest rates for trespassing were significantly higher for Latine people. 96.6% of arrests for alleged trespassing were Latine people.
  • OLS has primarily arrested people accused of low-level offenses like trespassing rather than drug-related offenses, human smuggling, or weapon charges. Nearly 70% of court appearances only had misdemeanor charges.
  • OLS has overwhelmingly prosecuted U.S. citizens and nationals rather than migrants for drug-related offenses, human smuggling, and weapon charges. U.S. citizens and nationals accounted for approximately 75% of all court proceedings for these offenses.
  • OLS has expanded far beyond the border. 13,600 arrests occurred in non-border counties, oftentimes hundreds of miles from the nearest port of entry.
  • The government’s data about OLS is inconsistent across state agencies. In these data sets, there were 38,030 arrests reported by DPS but only 13,306 people appeared before a magistrate as reported by OCA.

“Texas has no business trying to run its own immigration enforcement program,” said Sarah Cruz (she/her), policy and advocacy strategist for border and immigrants’ rights at the ACLU of Texas. “Governor Abbott and other state politicians conflating immigration with drugs and crime is as false as it is inflammatory and dangerous to our communities. Operation Lone Star is unconstitutional and ineffective, and the moral cost of the state’s unchecked cruelty is far greater than the $11 billion price tag. OLS and the state’s relentless attacks on our communities must end.”

Click here to download a video statement from Sarah Cruz.

For years, civil rights organizations, including the ACLU of Texas, have sounded the alarm about OLS’ unconstitutionality and rampant civil rights abuses. In 2023, the ACLU of Texas and the Texas Fair Defense Project filed a lawsuit after migrants were overdetained for an additional 13-42 days after their charges were dropped or their sentences were fully served. Other abuses of power include officers installing dangerous razor-wire-wrapped buoys in the Rio Grande and deadly DPS vehicle pursuits.

The report lists recommendations for Texas legislators to minimize the harms of OLS — including returning access to local parks and banks of the Rio Grande to border communities and coordinating with the federal government to ensure that people seeking asylum are given their lawful right to do so among others — while outlining why the program should ultimately be shut down.

Access the full report here:

Access the full report in Spanish here:

Access the video statement from Sarah Cruz here:"