The Department of Justice is probing allegations of civil rights violations under the Texas multibillion-dollar southern border initiative known as Operation Lone Star, The Texas Tribune reports.
Last year, the Texas Legislature directed more than $3 billion over two years, to border security measures, the majority of which has gone to Operation Lone Star, according to the Tribune.
As part of the initiative, which Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said was designed to fight human trafficking and drug smuggling, the state has sent more than 10,000 National Guard members and Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers to the U.S.-Mexico border and constructed some fencing.
According to the Tribune, thousands of migrant men have been arrested for trespassing on private property and some have been detained for weeks without being charged.
A joint investigation by the Tribune, ProPublica, and The Marshall Project found that, in reporting the operation’s successes, state officials included arrests unrelated to the border and statewide drug busts.
The investigation also found that trespassing cases made up the largest share of the operation's arrests.
A separate probe by the Tribune and the Army Times found problems with the National Guard deployment, reportedly including delayed payments to soldiers, a lack of critical equipment and substandard living conditions. Suicides by soldiers connected to the operation were also reported on previously by the Army Times.
DOJ Spokesperson Angela Dodge told the Tribune she could not "comment on the existence or lack thereof of any potential investigation or case on any matter not otherwise a part of the public court record."
"Generally, cases are brought to us by a variety of law enforcement agencies — federal, state, and local — for possible prosecutorial consideration following their investigation into a suspected violation of federal law," Dodge said in an email. "We consider each such case based on the evidence and what can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a federal court of law."
In records obtained by the Tribune and ProPublica, at least two Texas agencies involved in Operation Lone Star mentioned a DOJ investigation in their communications.
In an internal email in May, DPS officials talked about how the DOJ was looking into whether the border initiative was in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits institutions receiving federal funding from discriminating based on race, color, or national origin.
"If you are not already aware, the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ is investigating Operation Lone Star," Kaylyn Betts, a DPS assistant general counsel, wrote in a May 23 email.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice also referenced a "formal investigation" of the border initiative by the DOJ in a letter sent Friday to the state’s attorney general, the Tribune reports.
The agency mentioned the probe while also fighting the release of public records requested by the news organizations.
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