AUSTIN, Texas — 50 members of the Texas House of Representatives called on the U.S. Department of Justice Wednesday to investigate "Operation Lone Star," Gov. Greg Abbott’s highly touted border mission.
The group of lawmakers, including District 34 Rep. Abel Herrero, signed a letter saying Operation Lone Star violates the U.S. Constitution by superseding federal law and overburdening state agencies. Abbott is accused in the letter of misusing state resources by diverting over $3 billion in taxpayer money for border security.
At least 10,000 Texas National Guard soldiers have been deployed to the Texas/Mexico border. Despite the unprecedented spending, several reports have come to light of poor working and living conditions for troops, habitual pay problems, and suspected suicides tied to the operation.
Abbott pushed back on the reports of suicides being linked to his border mission, saying his detractors were “just playing politics.,” according to a report by the Texas Tribune. He pointed to the military’s broader suicide problem, adding that the National Guard suicides are under investigation and he suspected that not all “actually occurred during Operation Lone Star.”
“When Governor Abbott is in a political jam, he trashes our Texas border and uses Texas soldiers as a campaign backdrop. And our men and women in uniform deserve better and are sick and tired of this treatment," said State Rep. Rafael Anchía, MALC Chairman. "No American soldier should have to wonder if they will be able to provide for their family or pay rent. We urge the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into Operation Lone Star to protect Texan troops."
Texas has arrested approximately 2,681 people on misdemeanor trespass charges at the border, according to the letter. Of those, only 8% have been felonies.
“Governor Abbott is draining our local criminal justice system and agencies to play politics with our border communities. His creation of a separate criminal prosecution and detention system makes a mockery of the due process rights foundational to our nation’s judicial process," added State Rep. Mary González, MALC Vice-Chair. "Members of the Texas House of Representatives seek answers and urge the Department of Justice to intervene and officially investigate the legality of this unsustainable and cruel program."
You can read the letter sent to the DOJ here.
This is not the first time Abbott's border policy has come under scrutiny. A Travis County judge ruled in early January that the arrest of a man as part "Operation Lone Star" violated the U.S. Constitution and ordered the man's case dismissed.
It was a potentially significant development for the initiative along the Texas-Mexico border as attorneys say this now opens a path for others charged with trespassing to fight their arrests.
Operation Lone Star was formed to combat the smuggling of people and drugs into Texas. The operation integrates DPS with the Texas National Guard and deploys air, ground, marine and tactical border security assets to areas where cartels and other smugglers are known to move drugs and people across the border.
The governor said without Operation Lone Star, criminals would have "open season."
Allen West, a conservative firebrand running for governor, previously called for an investigation into Operation Lone Star and the resignation of the leader of the Texas Army National Guard.