An ACLU Texas complaint submitted to DHS leadership, shared and reported by the Texas Tribune, found that Border Patrol collaboration made possible 91 Texas state police “trespassing” arrests of migrants between late July and late August 2022. Border Patrol agents, the complaint reported, played a role in one quarter of the 368 migrant arrests that Texas’s Department of Public Security carried out during this period. The controversial arrests were part of “Operation Lone Star” (OLS), a state-government border crackdown ordered by Gov. Greg Abbott (R), an outspoken critic of the Biden administration’s border and migration policies.
“Extrapolating from this data, Border Patrol collusion is likely responsible for hundreds of arrests in Texas’ unlawful, discriminatory, and anti-immigrant trespass arrest system,” the ACLU complaint read.
To date, Texas has arrested more than 5,000 primarily Latinx individuals on state misdemeanor criminal trespass charges under OLS. The state has funneled these individuals into a separate criminal prosecution and detention system riddled with civil rights violations, including failure to appoint counsel and failure to timely file charges.
In July 2022, the Texas Tribune and ProPublica revealed that the Department of Justice was “seeking to review whether Operation Lone Star violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin by institutions receiving federal funding.”
Of the 91 Border Patrol-aided arrests in the ACLU complaint:
- Border Patrol agents were the initial arresting or apprehending party in 35 cases. “Border Patrol effectuated the arrest when DPS [Texas state Department of Public Safety] was not even present and nevertheless turned the individual over to a DPS officer for state misdemeanor trespass rather than process the individual for immigration purposes.”
- Border Patrol agents and Texas DPS officers were both present for the arrest in 41 arrests. “Instead of Border Patrol taking the individuals into CBP custody for immigration processing, Border Patrol prioritized arrests under Operation Lone Star for misdemeanor trespass—ensuring eligible individuals were instead channeled into the OLS trespass arrest system.”
- In 15 cases, Border Patrol provided surveillance information to Texas DPS that enabled Texas police to arrest the migrants. “This includes information from Border Patrol helicopter surveillance, drone, and remote cameras.”
The complaint noted that it appears to violate CBP policy for Border Patrol agents, who are federal government personnel, to collude with a state program that has imprisoned thousands of migrants—including asylum seekers—for months in specially designated Texas jails. It recalled an October 2021 interview with Texas Monthly in which Border Patrol Chief Raúl Ortiz called the OLS trespass arrest system “a tremendous concern,” adding, “I really would prefer to see border security left to the border-security experts.”
Texas law does not give Border Patrol agents the authority to arrest people for state misdemeanor charges (and most felony charges). In November 15, 2022 testimony before the Texas State Senate Committee on Border Security, the chief of Border Patrol’s Laredo Sector, Carl Landrum, asked legislators to make a “slight adjustment” to the Texas Penal Code that would allow Border Patrol agents “to arrest and assist in the prosecution of all state felonies and, he said, ‘some misdemeanors,’” the Texas Observer reported in February 2023.
“It is not clear whether the Laredo sector leadership’s position on expanding Texas state law to authorize felony arrests by Border Patrol under state law is endorsed by Border Patrol leadership or consistent with Border Patrol policy,” the ACLU Texas complaint read.
Finding that “Border Patrol’s extensive collusion with DPS in OLS trespass arrests is deeply troubling,” the ACLU Texas complaint called for “investigation by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).”
— Huddleston, Kathryn, Bernardo Cruz, Savannah Kumar, and Adriana Piñon. “Border Patrol Collusion in Texas Migrant Arrest Program under ‘Operation Lone Star’—Urgent Need for Immediate End to Collusion.” American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, December 2, 2022. <https://static.texastribune.org/media/files/c7b90d91cada0fd9268a2cb7e78b357a/ACLUTX_DHS_Complaint_OLS.pdf>.
— McCullough, Jolie. “Feds Often Hand Migrants over to State Police Rather than Process Immigration Claims, Complaint Says.” The Texas Tribune, December 2, 2022. <https://www.texastribune.org/2022/12/02/texas-migrant-arrests-border-patrol/>.
—Trevizo, Perla. “Justice Department Is Investigating Texas’ Operation Lone Star for Alleged Civil Rights Violations.” The Texas Tribune, July 6, 2022. <https://www.texastribune.org/2022/07/06/operation-lone-star-doj-investigation-abbott/>.
— McCullough, Jolie. “Texas’ Border Operation Is Meant to Stop Cartels and Smugglers. More Often, It Arrests Migrants for Misdemeanor Trespassing.” The Texas Tribune, April 4, 2022. <https://www.texastribune.org/2022/04/04/texas-border-operation-imprisons-thousands-accused-only-of-trespassing/>.
— Nelsen, Aaron. “Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz on the Crisis in Texas and Why Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star Concerns Him.” Texas Monthly, October 21, 2021. <https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/raul-ortiz-border-patrol-texas/>.
— Griswold, Niki. “Border Patrol Requests Change to Texas Penal Code to Allow Agents to Enforce State Law.” Austin American-Statesman. November 16, 2022. <https://www.statesman.com/story/news/politics/state/2022/11/16/border-patrol-asks-texas-to-allow-agents-to-enforce-state-law/69639080007/>.
— Buch, Jason. “The Border Patrol’s Power Grab.” The Texas Observer, February 13, 2023. <https://www.texasobserver.org/the-border-patrols-gross-power-grab/>.