Texas’ racist, multibillion dollar border scheme illegally jailing Black and brown migrants without any state charges has also resulted in the deaths of at least 30 people, civil rights organizations said in a new complaint filed with the Justice Department.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas and Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) said that state Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers have racially profiled drivers under Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star scheme, with some of this harassment turning into unnecessary high-speed chases. They say at least 30 people have been killed as a result, including five bystanders who had nothing to do with the stops.
Both groups are among the coalition of organizations that filed a Title VI discrimination complaint last year, pointing to ample evidence of racial profiling and biased policing. “Federal civil rights investigation and intervention is urgently needed,” the two organizations say in their new complaint.
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“DPS’s saturation presence in South Texas has deadly consequences,” the complaint states. “Because DPS has historically disproportionately targeted Latinx drivers for traffic stops and because OLS itself has indicia of bias-based policing, these vehicle pursuits likely disproportionately kill Latinx drivers and passengers. DPS has to our knowledge made no effort to remedy this problem of deadly consequences to its vehicle pursuits.
“Contrary to law enforcement best practices, DPS leaves pursuit decisions up to the discretion of the individual officer,” the complaint continues. “The agency also provides no meaningful policy guidance as to when to deploy different intervention tactics. The consequence is deadly crashes that are entirely foreseeable.” Border Patrol’s unnecessary car chases similarly resulted in nearly two dozen deaths last year. Following outrage, Commissioner Chris Magnus announced in late May that the agency would be releasing an updated policy pertaining to vehicle pursuits.
”We have repeatedly urged DOJ to investigate involvement in the OLS trespass arrest program by a variety of state and local agencies, including DPS,” ACLU of Texas and TCRP said. “We again renew that call for a formal investigation into state and local agencies’ participation in the trespass arrest program under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
The complaint last year noted how one county sheriff eagerly partnered with a Jan. 6 insurrectionist for a ride-along. The insurrectionist, Women Fighting for America leader Christie Hutcherson, boasted that she was working “hand in hand” with Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe to “help facilitate closing down our borders.’” Kinney County also recently boasted of “sending undocumented individuals back to Mexico,” which is very illegal. Following criticism, the sheriff’s office claimed it wasn’t a “formal deportation.”
Legal advocates said as recently as March that Abbott and Operation Lone Star continued to violate state law by detaining Black and Latino migrants for weeks and months at a time without any formal charges. In July, The Texas Tribune reported that a federal investigation into the border scheme has been ongoing since at least May.
“The OLS trespass arrest program targets Black and Brown migrants for arrest and funnels them into a separate criminal system rife with civil rights abuses. It is dangerous, oppressive, and illegal,” ACLU of Texas and TCRP continued. “The traffic stops that DPS is conducting under OLS are likewise dangerous, oppressive, and illegal. The impact on border communities—from the chilling effects on daily life to the risk of serious injury and death from vehicle pursuits—is immense.”
“Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star is harassing Hispanic communities and creating an intolerable police state in border towns,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro. “The incidents described in today’s complaint are horrifying, but they are not surprising to those who have been monitoring the trail of abuses linked to Operation Lone Star. I have long asked the Department of Justice to intervene in Operation Lone Star, and I hope this complaint will push the Department to take legal action to protect civil rights in Texas.”
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