Advocates file civil rights complaint with DOJ over Texas border arrest program

Civil rights and immigration advocates filed a complaint with the Department of Justice on Wednesday over a Texas border arrest program initiated by Texas Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottO'Rourke 'not interested' in campaign help from politicians outside Texas Gerrymandering is putting US in Mad Max territory On immigration, President Biden needs a re-set MORE (R), alleging the program is discriminatory, according to 

Under the Operation Lone Star program, people who are believed to have crossed the border illegally are hit with criminal trespassing charges. Advocates argue the program violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the grounds that it is discriminatory, according to BorderReport.com.

“In this racist and xenophobic environment, officials are targeting migrants for criminal arrest and prosecution — under the guise of state criminal trespass law but with the explicit, stated goal of punishing migrants based on their immigration status,” the complaint stated.

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“Using state criminal law, the state of Texas and participating counties have created and are carrying out what is in reality a system of state immigration enforcement that targets Black and Brown — primarily Latinx — individuals for prosecution and enhanced punishment,” it continues.

The complaint alleges the program has set up a “separate criminal prosecution and detention system” for those arrested, including separate jails, separate criminal dockets and separate public defender assignments.

“This separate system is riddled with civil rights violations, including failure to appoint counsel, failure to timely file charges, and even the unilateral replacement of judges. Hundreds of those arrested have waited in jail for weeks or months without a lawyer or without a court date. In the end, the overwhelming majority of cases are simply dropped–through dismissal, or declined prosecution,” the complaint said.

Officials and lawyers who signed the complaint — including those from ACLU of Texas, Texas Fair Defense Project and Texas Civil Rights Project — are urging the DOJ to investigate the program, demanding that any state or local agencies found to engage in discrimination lose their federal funding.

The complaint says that over 2,200 people have been arrested through the program.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment to The Hill regarding the complaint.

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In late October, over 20 Democratic representatives called on several Biden administration officials to look into Abbott’s Operation Lone Star program.

“We ask that the Department of Justice (DOJ) review and investigate Governor Abbott’s Operation Lone Star program regarding both its likely violation of the Supremacy Clause and its treatment of migrants, especially in regards to an individual’s constitutional right to due process,” according to the letter.

A spokesperson for the governor told NBC News in a statement at the time that the program was in place to combat the smuggling of drugs and people.

The Hill has reached out to Abbott’s office for comment.

Updated on Thursday at 10:58 p.m.