Trooper decries Texas immigration operation as “inhumane”—07-21-23
Immigration news, in context
**Update: A few days after this newsletter went out, the Justice Department sued Abbott over the Rio Grande barrier. We’re not saying we pushed them over the edge, but we’re not not saying that.**
This is the 158th edition of BORDER/LINES, a newsletter by Felipe De La Hoz and Gaby Del Valle designed to get you up to speed on the big developments in immigration policy. Reach out with feedback, suggestions, tips, and ideas at BorderLines.News@protonmail.ch.
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This week’s edition:
In The Big Picture, we examine the latest controversy swirling around Texas’s Operation Lone Star.
In Under the Radar, we discuss a recent court filing regarding the death of a child in Border Patrol custody.
In Next Destination, we look at the Biden administration’s unprecedented use of humanitarian parole.
The Big Picture
The news: Per an email sent by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper to a sergeant and subsequently obtained and reported by the Houston Chronicle, officers with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s continuing Operation Lone Star have been ordered to treat migrants they encounter in a way that “stepped over a line into the inhumane.” The operation has been years-long effort to use state personnel to essentially masquerade as border enforcement in much the same way that private militias have done for years, but now with official state resources and approval.
The trooper complained about a supposed order, which the Texas DPS subsequently denied exists, to deny water to migrants in the extreme heat and to push migrants caught in the razor wire that the Lone Star force has put up around the border, including at riverbanks. The email includes examples, like that of a four-year-old girl who had passed out from heat exhaustion while stuck on the wire, and who was pushed back by Texas National Guard troops, and a pregnant woman who was found having a miscarriage while caught on the wire. Those are the ones who were found alive; the presence of the wire, the buoys, and the troops have pushed people to cross over more dangerous territory, with the upshot being more deaths from drowning or exposure in an amped-up version of the federal government’s longtime prevention through deterrence strategy.
The trooper isn’t a public whistleblower per se, in the sense that the email wasn’t sent to reporters but to a supervisor and then leaked, apparently by someone else. Its allegations put the Lone Star force’s orders effectively in the realm of negligent homicide as a deterrent. As referenced above, it’s certainly not the first time that such a strategy has been adopted, but in this case it’s being spearheaded by a state governor who has no putative authority to conduct border enforcement. This circumstance is also not coming out of nowhere; it is the endpoint of an operation that has been steadily pushing the envelope of Abbott’s authority for two years, and he’s largely been left to do as he pleases. Despite the clear preemption of federal authority, the feds have mostly stood aside, to disastrous consequences.
Under the Radar
Court monitor finds that 8-year-old’s death in Border Patrol custody was preventable
The death of Anadith Danay Reyes Álvarez, an eight-year-old girl who died while in Border Patrol custody in Texas, was preventable and resulted from “a series of failures in the [Customs and Border Protection] medical and custodial systems for children,” according to a report filed by a court-appointed monitor this week.
Reyes was being held with her parents at a Border Patrol facility in Donna, Texas in May but was later transferred to another facility in Harlingen, Texas. After the girl tested positive for the flu and her fever spiked to 104.9, her mother repeatedly asked Border Patrol staff to send the girl to a hospital or to call an ambulance--but her requests were repeatedly denied, according to DHS. The girl died shortly after being transferred to a hospital, where she died. The girl reportedly suffered from sickle cell and heart conditions, and the report noted that Border Patrol personnel were not aware of this and never consulted physicians about her health.
In two internal memos obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Border Patrol officials at the Harlingen facility complained of “overuse of hospitalization” despite several instances of overcrowding and one instance of diarrhea among children in other Border Patrol facilities in the state. Border Patrol officials at the Donna facility claimed that staff had a “tendency to send migrants to the hospital for things that could easily be treated on location,” investigators wrote. “For instance, persons with fevers are sent to the hospital instead of being given a fever-reducing medication at the facility,” they said. “The migrants typically return to Donna with ibuprofen from the hospital and no fever.”
More than half a million people paroled into U.S. under Biden, but their futures are uncertain
In just under two years, at least 541,000 people have entered the United States through immigration parole, according to internal government statistics obtained by CBS News. Of those, approximately 168,400 were from Latin American and the Caribbean migrants with U.S. sponsors, 141,200 were Ukrainian refugees with U.S. sponsors, 22,000 were Ukrainians processed at the U.S.-Mexico border, 133,000 were asylum seekers who waited in Mexico to apply for protection the U.S., and 77,000 were Afghan evacuees.
All were admitted under the auspices of a 1952 law allowing the federal government to admit people without visas into the U.S., provided that there is an “urgent humanitarian” reason or “significant public benefit” for doing so. Though parole lets people live and work in the country legally, it does not confer any kind of permanent status—a subsequent presidential administration could terminate parole at any time. Senior DHS officials told CBS News that they expect migrants to leave the U.S. once their parole expires if they haven’t gotten permanent status through other means, such as asylum or visas for relatives of U.S. citizens.
The Big Picture – Premium
For this being a newsletter focused on federal policy, we end up writing a good amount about one particular governor, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas. We’ll break this all down in more detail later, but off the bat let’s emphasize that this is certainly not the first, or second, or third time that Abbott has wreaked havoc by his desire to cosplay as the nation’s self-appointed guardian of the border and lib-owner in chief.
The most infamous of these stunts at this point is probably the chaotic bussing of migrants to NYC and other cities, which, as we’ve theorized, was a relatively successful effort to turn large liberal constituencies and their leaders against long-standing support for asylum processing and humanitarian objectives. This bussing campaign is the spark that established NYC as a de facto location for arriving migrants without existing social and family ties. Abbott also almost triggered an international diplomatic incident when he instituted redundant checks of cross-border commercial vehicles, creating a huge bottleneck of northbound trucks.
Yet this email and its revelations are tied to a much earlier Abbott policy, the so-called Operation Lone Star. We first wrote about it in January 2022, when a state judge ruled that the policy—which involved not only Texas’ but a multi-state coalition of both law enforcement and National Guard units patrolling the border and pretextually arresting migrants for trespassing as a way to conduct immigration enforcement—was unconstitutional. By that point, reporters with the Army Times had already tied the policy to several suicides of troops stationed along the border on what many viewed as an open-ended and pointless mission that was keeping them indefinitely away from home.