Nine Congressional Texas Democrats penned a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen this week, urging the treasurer to investigate where the funding for Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star Star is coming from.
Operation Lone Star is an immigration enforcement effort by the governor that has arrested more than 14,000 migrants and asylum-seekers, largely on misdemeanor state criminal trespass charges.
By arresting migrants on state trespassing charges, civil rights groups say the governor has created his own shadow detention and trial system for migrants, a move that attempts to trample the domain of immigrantion law and enforcement that is exclusive to the federal government.
In late April, Abbott requested an additional $495.3 million for Operation Lone Star, on top of $4 billion the state had already appropriated for border security efforts in the current biennium.
To secure the additional half a billion for the Operation Lone Star, Abbott pulled money from several other state agencies: $53.6 million from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, $159.2 million from Texas Department of Public Safety, $117.3 million from Texas Health and Human Services, $18 million from State Health Services, $4.3 million from the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and $24.4 million from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.
Ongoing for more than a year and with no end in sight, Congressional Democrats are now asking questions about Operation Lone Star and where the governor is getting his funding for the program from. More specifically, whether the funding for Operation Lone Star pulled from other state agencies overlapped with federal American Rescue Plan funding that was doled out to states to fight and recover from the pandemic.
“We write to request that the Department of the Treasury review how the Texas state government, and its agencies are using Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds,” wrote the nine congressional Texas Democrats, Reps. Joaquin Castro, Veronica Escobar, Lloyd Doggett, Colin Allred, Sheila Jackson Lee, Al Green, Marc Veasey, Sylvia Garcia and Lizzie Fletcher.
Citing the treasury’s rule on Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, the lawmakers said that the funding should be used to replace public sector revenue lost due to the pandemic, address public health and economic impacts of the pandemic, and provide for pay for essential workers and investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
“Instead, Governor Abbott is taking this funding away from integral public sector resources and allocating it to Operation Lone Star, which the Texas Legislature has already funded with almost $2 billion toward border security over the next two years,” they wrote. “It is negligent and irresponsible for Governor Abbot to direct additional funding to Operation Lone Star, especially if the funding in question was intended to help Texans rebuild from the pandemic.”
As you continue your oversight of the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds, we urge you to ensure all states are using these crucial funds for the reasons they were meant to be used,” they concluded. “Texas has struggled immensely during the pandemic, and these funds are critical to help our state recover from the devastation of the past two years. Governor Abbott must not be allowed to use federal coronavirus relief funds to further his political theater at the expense of Texas families.”
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