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Justice Department investigating Operation Lone Star for alleged civil rights violations, records show

Emails obtained by The Texas Tribune and ProPublica confirm that federal authorities are probing discrimination claims.

TEXAS, USA — The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating alleged civil rights violations under Operation Lone Star, according to state records obtained by The Texas Tribune and ProPublica.

The Tribune reports that last year, the Texas Legislature directed more than $3 billion to border security measures over the next two years, the bulk of which has gone to Operation Lone Star. 

Under the initiative, Texas has built some fencing and deployed more than 10,000 National Guard members and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers to the Texas-Mexico order. In addition, "thousands of immigrant men seeking to enter the country have been arrested for trespassing onto private property, and some have been kept in jail for weeks without charges being filed," the Tribune reports.

The Tribune reports that since Operation Lone Star's launch, a number of news organizations have outlined problems with "state leaders' claims of success, the treatment of National Guard members and alleged civil rights violations."

Now it seems the DOJ is looking into those potential violations.

While a DOJ spokesperson told the Tribune that 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," at least two Texas agencies involved in carrying out Operation Lone Star have pointed to a DOJ investigation in records obtained by the Tribune and ProPublica.

The Tribune notes that in an internal email in May, DPS officials said the DOJ was seeking to review whether the border initiative violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin by institutions receiving federal funding.

Additionally, the Tribune notes that in a letter sent on July 1 to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) also cited a "formal investigation" of Operation Lone Star by the DOJ. The TDCJ pointed to the investigation while "fighting the release of public records sought by the news organizations," the Tribune reports.

None of the agencies have publicly released information related to the DOJ’s requests, according to the Tribune.

This is not the first federal investigation into Operation Lone Star this year. Back in May, the U.S. Treasury Department opened an investigation into Gov. Greg Abbott’s use of COVID-19 relief dollars to support border security initiatives.

To learn more, read the Tribune's full report.

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