September 28, 2023

Castro, Casar Fight to Block Federal Funding for Operation Lone Star

WASHINGTON – Last night, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Congressman Greg Casar (TX-35) fought to block federal homeland security funding from being diverted from federal immigration enforcement to fund Texas’ failed Operation Lone Star through an amendment they offered to H.R. 4367, the FY2024 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill. The amendment received bipartisan support, including from all Democrats in the Texas congressional delegation.

Congressman Castro Speaks on House Floor

Congressman Castro speaks on Operation Lone Star during debate on the House Floor


The text of the amendment is available here.

Castro opened the debate with the following remarks:

“Operation Lone Star has been defined by corruption, incompetence, and cruelty.

Two years ago, the governor of my state of Texas launched Operation Lone Star – a destructive $4.5 billion political stunt that has led to a federal civil rights investigation, the tragic deaths of eight National Guard servicemembers, and a formal diplomatic complaint from our nation’s — and Texas’ — largest trading partner.

Under the guise of border security, Governor Greg Abbott has embarked on an unprecedented campaign of government overreach – seizing private property, destroying livelihoods, and turning American border cities and towns into war zones where helicopters buzz overhead and armed troopers pull over American citizens for looking too much like immigrants.

At the beginning of the summer, Governor Abbott installed invisible razor wire in the middle of the Rio Grande and built a 1,000-foot string of floating death traps that are separated by serrated blades and secured to the riverbed with a net designed to catch and drown the families who reach it.

During the August recess, I went down to Eagle Pass, Texas to see the impact of Operation Lone Star for myself.

Standing on the banks of the river, I could see scraps of clothing and shoes stuck in the razor-wire mesh that Governor Abbott’s troops installed on the border.

The wire isn’t tall enough, or strong enough to stop anyone desperate enough to cross – but it’s sharp enough to leave them bloodied and broken.

When families finally make it to U.S. soil, Operation Lone Star troopers have been arresting the fathers and sons on trumped-up trespassing charges and locking them up for months at a time – some, without the ability to reach their families — while busing their wives and children to cities and states that are thousands of miles away, including New York, Colorado, California, and Illinois.

Mr. Chair, Americans want border security. They also want an efficient and orderly immigration process.

Operation Lone Star interferes with that.

It hurts the federal government’s efforts, and it damages Border Patrol’s efforts.

When Democrats were in the majority, we voted for billions of dollars in funding for Customs and Border Protection and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and we fought to rebuild a functioning immigration system from what had been left behind by the Trump administration.

Operation Lone Star isn’t border security. It’s just plain brutality. There’s a difference between treating people like human beings and treating people like animals.”

Casar continued:

“We must stop the dangerous, expensive, corrupt, and ineffective political stunts at the border, and instead chart a new path for a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system. Abbott’s Operation Lone Star must end and I urge passage of my good friend Mr. Castro’s amendment to ensure federal funding does not go to this failed program.

“Every day, Greg Abbott violates the rights of asylum seekers and violates the rights of our border communities, all to score political points against President Biden. We have seen these inhumane policies in action that have taken the lives of children at the border. And we have lost national guardsmen to death.

“This is not only inhumane, but Operation Lone Star is not effective. Abbott is lighting $25 million on fire every week – to cause suffering instead of creating solutions. Why do my colleagues across the aisle not want solutions? Because they have no interest in a functioning immigration system. They thrive off of keeping the immigration system broken, so they can continue to stoke anti-immigrant fears for their own politics.

“Operation Lone Star furthermore is also unconstitutional. In Arizona v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled the federal government, not people like Governor Abbott, have supremacy over the immigration system.

“Abbott’s unconstitutional, abusive, wasteful, and inhumane Operation Lone Star is a disgrace to our state and to our nation. I want to be clear: Not one cent of federal money should go towards caging families, cutting innocent people with razor wire, or drowning children. Period.”

In the final moments of the debate, Castro concluded:

“Cruelty. Incompetence. These are what define Operation Lone Star.

Unfortunately, the era we’re in, in American politics — for those across the aisle — is marked by fearmongering.

Because they have no solutions to the real issues that confront Americans.

Education. Health care. Jobs. They can’t even get a budget together.

So they try to scare everybody.

They try to use these brown-skinned immigrants to scare everybody. That’s what this is about.”