Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s crusade on the southern border is under fire. This month, a state judge ruled in favor of an undocumented Ecuadorian man who alleged that his treatment in the governor’s militarized Operation Lone Star campaign was the product of a constitutional conflict that is upending the relationship between the federal government and the state, the Intercept reports. The decision opened the door to similar challenges, which began coming less than 24 hours later and now threaten the existence of the controversial policing experiment at the heart of Abbott’s bid for reelection. Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March. Since then, the governor, citing a state-level disaster declaration, has drastically ramped up the program to include 10,000 state troopers in the Texas Department of Public Safety and members of the Texas National Guard.
From his announcement of his candidacy through the kickoff of his reelection campaign this month, Abbott has put the border at the center of his messaging, arguing that the federal government has lost control of the U.S.-Mexico divide under President Biden and that Texas has been forced to respond. Bolstered by $3 billion in border security spending that the Texas legislature approved last year, Lone Star is the operational centerpiece of that effort. Troopers have arrested more than 10,000 undocumented immigrants in the past nine months. In November, the Wall Street Journal reported that just three percent of the roughly 1,500 individuals arrested in the operation by that point had actually been convicted and that of 170 cases that were resolved, roughly 70 percent “were dismissed, declined or otherwise dropped, in some instances for lack of evidence.” In fact, in some cases, lawyers noted that a client’s processing through Operation Lone Star gave them an opportunity to stay in the U.S. and pursue their asylum claim on U.S. soil, whereas the Trump-era mandatory federal expulsion programs that the Biden administration continues to enforce would not.