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Vigilantes and a failed Operation Lone Star on the border

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They are armed, organized and getting support from law enforcement on the Texas-Mexico border.

Groups of anti-migrant vigilantes are operating with impunity as they harass anyone that they suspect of being in the state without legal authorization. Frequently that means they a stopping and questioning American citizens, which they have no right or legal standing to do so.

New reporting from the Texas Observer shows that the militias and vigilantes are working in tandem with border law enforcement and federal immigration officials.

According to the reporting by Texas Observer reporter Francesca D'Annunzio, armed vigilantes roamed Eagle Pass leaving residents uncomfortable even in their own Walmart parking lot. Several members of the Carnalismo National Brown Berets, a four-decade-old Chicano civil rights group, arrived from across Texas to provide security for local residents during a counterprotest.


Francesca D'Annunzio is a reporter for The Texas Observer.

ACLU on Operation Lone Star

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and ACLU Analytics published a report 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.


Sarah Cruz is a policy and advocacy strategist for border and immigrants’ rights at the ACLU of Texas.

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*This interview will be recorded on Thursday, May 23, 2024.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi