Protesters march from the Texas State Capitol to Republic Square park in downtown Austin to call for the immediate end of Operation Lone Star, March 4, 2023. Texas lawmakers are proposing laws that would make it a felony to cross the border from Mexico illegally and create a new border police force that could deputize private citizens in a continued push to test the limits of the federal government's authority over immigration. (Sara Diggins/Austin American-Statesman via AP, file)

by Brett Wilkins

A coalition of more than 100 advocacy groups on August 24 implored the Biden administration to “take decisive action to condemn” and “cease involvement” in Operation Lone Star, the deadly anti-immigrant campaign launched in 2021 by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

In a letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and senior Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, the 108 groups implored the administration “to investigate and end any collaboration” between Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies and Operation Lone Star (OLS).

“In the two years since Texas initiated OLS, we have repeatedly called on DHS and CBP to cease all forms of cooperation with the program,” the letter states. “Nevertheless, to date your agencies have not forcefully disavowed the program or acknowledged the deep harms of Texas’ racist and unlawful enforcement operation.”


“Federal inaction has emboldened Texas officials to employ increasingly brazen, cruel, and deadly enforcement tactics that have caused family separation, death, and daily violations of the civil and human rights of Black and Brown migrants,” the signers added.

As the National Immigration Project—which led the letter—noted, these tactics include “pushing people back into the Rio Grande, denying migrants water in extreme heat, and installing life-threatening buoy and razor-wire barriers in and around the river.”

“Advocates also report that Texas officers have started using OLS arrests to separate fathers from their families, seemingly with the cooperation of Border Patrol agents,” the group added. “These conscience-shocking tactics will only continue in the absence of a decisive federal response.”

Last month, the U.S. Justice Department sued Texas over the floating barrier, claiming it “poses threats to navigation and public safety and presents humanitarian concerns,” and “has prompted diplomatic protests by Mexico and risks damaging U.S. foreign policy.”

National Immigration Project executive director Sirene Shebaya said in a statement that “in recent months, we’ve seen Gov. Greg Abbott employ new and increasingly dangerous and deadly tactics as part of his illicit Operation Lone Star program.”

“The federal government has a clear responsibility to not only cease collaboration with Texas officials on Operation Lone Star but also to push back on this unthinkable cruelty,” she continued.

“Left unchecked, these hateful policies and inhumane treatment will only continue to escalate,” Shebaya added. “As a nationwide membership organization, we will continue working with our members and partners in Texas and across the country to put an end to these horrific human and civil rights abuses.”