DILLEY, Texas — One of the lawmakers visiting a south Texas prison where the state is holding migrants charged with trespassing is criticizing Gov. Greg Abbott’s efforts that landed them there.
“We went down to the Briscoe unit and Dilley, Texas to do some oversight on Operation Lone Star and how it's been functioning or not functioning,” said Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat from San Antonio. “What we found was my concern was a violation of due process. The average person in jail across the State of Texas sits for 14 days on a criminal trespass case. And we currently have 265 persons that have been in jail for over 90 days.
“That's a travesty and a waste of taxpayer dollars, just so that Greg Abbott can have another yet again, failed political stunt.”
Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March of 2021, touting it as a multi-pronged approach aimed at “securing the border.”
“We saw undocumented persons incarcerated for five and six months, many of them,” Gutierrez said. “We saw people that were not given access to their cell phones so that they can get information to call their family relatives in whichever country they came from, to let them know if they were dead or alive. If Greg Abbott wants to be the immigration cop, let him go grab as many immigrants as he wants and send them over to the border, at which time 90% are summarily deported from the United States.”
Some law enforcement leaders have a different view of Operation Lone Star 13 months after it was announced, including Zapata County Sheriff Ray Del Bosque Jr.
“It's not a political stunt,” he said. “I believe Governor Abbott is providing the border sheriffs with resources for all of us to do our jobs. And to keep the U.S. and Mexican border safe.”
Del Bosque told KENS 5 he sees a lot of migrant traffic in his border community. He said the county is working with the state to start arresting migrants for trespassing, but didn’t give a date as to when that will start.
“We’re in communication with the ranch owners, because a lot of these people are causing damage to the fences; they're causing damage to their property, to their homes,” he said. “They're also in danger because of the extreme heat and the extreme conditions that we have out there at this time.”
No one is arguing there’s been an increase in migrant crossings; the latest federal numbers show there’s been a 37% jump in March compared to February when it comes to individuals only crossing once.
It’s the way Texas and the federal government are approaching border enforcement that has people arguing over what’s right and who’s doing it wrong.
“Certainly, we have seen an uptick in immigrants, no doubt,” Gutierrez said. “But it isn’t the State of Texas’ job to house folks, create these so-called crimes by which we’re going to punish these people from, I guess, coming back again.”
Gutierrez said the governor was misspending billions on this effort when Texas has other spending priorities, including the safety of children in custody of the state.
“I've seen this escalate into a humanitarian issue and also into a crisis that needs to be addressed,” Del Bosque said. “And Governor Abbott has paid attention to our needs and he's providing that security and resources that we can help Border Patrol and DPS, you know, protect the U.S. Mexican border. And that's what we're doing.”
Abbott’s staff didn’t respond to KENS 5 requests for comment on this story.