Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has shamelessly promoted the supposed successes of his multibillion dollar, taxpayer-funded border scheme. “Through Operation Lone Star, the Texas Department of Public Safety has seized hundreds of pounds of cocaine & fentanyl, with a street value of $2.2M,” he claimed in a September tweet. “Operation Lone Star continues to secure the border, crack down on human smuggling,” read a press release just a couple days ago.
But when pressed on the data to back that up, the right-wing governor’s office has “fought two dozen public records requests from the news organizations that would provide a clearer picture of the operation’s accomplishments,” a joint investigation from Marshall Project, ProPublica, and The Texas Tribune said. But some of the information that has been presented has been misleading, or just an outright lie.
“A year into the operation, officials touted more than 11,000 criminal arrests, drug seizures that amount to millions of ‘lethal doses’ and the referrals of tens of thousands of unauthorized immigrants to the federal government for deportation as signs that the program is effective,” the joint report said.
But included in that have been the arrests of U.S. citizens nowhere near the border with Mexico. Texas had also included charges like cockfighting as well as sexual assault and stalking, which, while very serious crimes, have nothing to do with a supposed border operation. Texas stopped counting those and 2,000 other charges as part of Operation Lone Star later last year, “after the news organizations began raising questions about the ties between the arrests and border security,” the report said.
“The problem could be simply related to crimes in those communities,” former Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) official Patrick O’Burke told the outlets, calling the data “inherently flawed.” He said the policy is “not battling cross-border crime.”
“In the fight against fentanyl, DPS has seized over 288 million lethal doses throughout the state,” Abbott’s release also claimed. But the joint investigation said Texas has been citing drug seizures from areas that included “counties that did not receive additional resources from the operation, and some of the newly credited actions included work already conducted by troopers stationed there before the governor’s initiative began.” Read the full joint investigation here.
What the Operation Lone Star border scheme has done is continue to illegally imprison asylum-seekers and other migrants without any charges, a fact that doesn’t bother Abbott at all. What he has been defensive about are deplorable conditions facing soldiers deployed to his border stunt. A number of soldiers tied to the operation have also died, some by suicide. Abbott’s reaction has been to blame President Joe Biden and to scapegoat a department leader.
The Texas Tribune also reports that dozens of soldiers were deployed to the ranch homes of rich Texans, including the Armstrong Ranch, “the property of a longtime Republican family that has hosted GOP leaders like Karl Rove, former Gov. Rick Perry, and former Vice President Dick Cheney.”
As in the case of the thousands of charges later excluded from Operation Lone Star counts, Texas stopped those posts after media inquiry. As previously noted, perhaps Abbott and the scheme’s defenders might claim these placements were supposed to be strategic. “But service members with firsthand knowledge of the mission told The Texas Tribune that troops rarely saw migrants from their posts nearly 80 miles away from the border,” the report said.
"The whole reason for all this, you know, playing with statistics, is for optics so that the governor could get reelected," former Drug Enforcement Administration Intelligence Chief Gary Hale said in the joint report. He said there’s been “zero” net gain from the border operation. Of course, that’s what we expected from the start of this thing. Meanwhile, the Texas attorney general has refused to release his Jan. 6 insurrection records while claiming asylum-seekers are the real danger.
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