By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — Allegations made by Texas Democratic lawmakers that Operation Lone Star is racist are “absurd,” Kinney County Attorney Brent Smith says.
Mr. Smith, who’s prosecuted the most cases involving illegal immigration since Operation Lone Star began, said the first trespassing case he prosecuted involved two U.S. citizens who are white men.
“People from approximately 150 different countries are illegally entering Texas” as a result of the Biden administration’s open border policies, Mr. Smith told The Center Square. “I’m not sure how anyone can honestly make a claim of racism towards so many different nationalities. I could point out that the majority of the arresting officers are Hispanic, but taking time to argue these points gives legitimacy to an absurd argument to begin with.”
Fifty state representatives have asked U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas to investigate Operation Lone Star, a border security measure created by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to thwart criminal activity at the southern border. The representatives claim the operation violates the Constitution and is racist.
“Operation Lone Star uses state criminal law to target Black and Latino migrants for punishment,” they wrote, asking Mr. Garland and Mr. Mayorkas to use “all tools at your disposal to ensure the end of this policy.”
They claim it was “launched on the heels of a rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric, likely violates the Supremacy Clause and Due Process Protections of the U.S. Constitution, is overwhelming the local justice systems, and raised concerns about troubling reports related to the Texas Military Department.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued it’s “100% constitutional.” And state and local law enforcement officers are arresting perpetrators for state crimes, not federal crimes, Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw said.
In addition to appropriating $3 billion to border security efforts, the Texas legislature passed laws beefing up penalties for human trafficking, fentanyl distribution and drug-related crimes, as well as criminal trespass. Gov. Abbott signed the bills into law last year.
Mr. Paxton and Mr. Smith have led the charge in border security efforts in Texas, with Mr. Paxton having sued the Biden administration 10 times over it.
Mr. Smith was the first to draft the disaster declaration that Kinney County issued last April. Other counties followed suit, and Texas later issued its disaster declaration by the end of May.
Mr. Smith has called on Gov. Abbott to take stronger measures to secure the border, arguing that Texas as a sovereign state has the right to defend itself.
Kinney County, with a population of roughly 3,700, shares 16 miles of border with Mexico. After President Joe Biden reversed existing immigration policies, thousands of illegal immigrants began entering the county illegally, Mr. Smith said. Residents have endured a year of trespassing and break-ins, destruction of property, and threats to themselves, their farm workers and livestock, he added.
Last year, Mr. Smith began prosecuting cases that previously only large district attorney staffs of bigger cities would prosecute. With only a secretary to assist, his office went from prosecuting 10 cases a month to 500. Now, he’s handling 15 to 40 cases a day, he said.
Kinney County has made more than 2,600 arrests since last August and will likely surpass 3,000 by March, Mr. Smith said. A Border Prosecution Unit, a state-funded task force of prosecutors, has played a vital role in taking on the surge of prosecutions he’s been inundated with.
“Their support has made all the difference,” he said.
Texas National Guard paralegals are also helping with administrative work.