Last week, several thousand migrants reportedly passed through southern Mexico en route to the United States in the largest migrant caravan of the year. Officials said they disbanded the group in the past few days, but many may still be traveling in small groups.
In the past, many migrants hoped to arrive in the United States and seek asylum. Over the past two years, however, multiple policies have tightened the boundary. These include the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols or MPPs, which requires people seeking asylum to return to Mexico while awaiting their due dates. hearing.
Additionally, during the pandemic, Title 42 imposed travel restrictions and asylum seekers were turned away at the border.
In May, there were nearly 240,000 unauthorized border crossings south, according to US Customs and Border Protection – a two-decade high and a 30% increase from the same period last year.
In response to the influx of illegal crossings, Texas Governor Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star last year. The law enforcement operation involves using “available resources to enforce all applicable federal and state laws to prevent criminal activity along the border.”
According to an April 2022 Texas state report, Operation Lone Star boasted over 13,600 criminal arrests and over 11,000 felony charges as well as over 3,700 weapons seizures.
“Texans demand and deserve an aggressive, comprehensive border security strategy that will protect our communities from the dangerous consequences of illegal immigration,” Abbott said in a statement. “Until President Biden enforces the immigration laws passed by Congress, Texas will step up and use its own strategies to secure the border and negotiate with Mexico to seek solutions that will keep Texans safe.”
ABC News correspondent Mireya Villareal spoke to ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast about Operation Lone Star.
“[Abbott] decided to put National Guards, Texas Border Guards, as well as the augmentation of DPS soldiers he already had patrolling the area who are assisting local law enforcement,” Villareal said. “So we’re talking about 10,000 troops who are now along the border with Operation Lone Star, but there’s a lot of confusion about what their duties are, what kind of arrest power they really have. and what laws they apply there.
Due to the way state laws are enforced by Operation Lone Star, immigration advocates have said migrants are arrested for trespassing the state and are treated as criminals before they even arrive. having been given the opportunity to seek asylum through federal politics, according to Villareal.
“Migrants arriving from Mexico think the people they meet are real federal agents enforcing immigration policy,” Villareal said. “So they stop because they think they’re surrendering and they’ll have the chance to apply for asylum. However, that’s not what happens when they inevitably encounter guards or DPS soldiers.
She said that’s why state detention centers are overcrowded.
“The detention centers used by the State of Texas are prisons for ordinary criminals. And so the frustration that we’re seeing and the reason immigration advocates are speaking very highly about Operation Lone Star is because you’re treating them like they’re criminals,” Villareal said. “You have a migrant who came to the United States asking for help, who wants to seek asylum and is being told he cannot.” Villareal call it an ‘escape’ from a situation.
“That’s where there’s this very blurred line between state rights and the laws they can enforce and federal rights and the laws they can enforce, the powers they have,” he said. said Villareal. “I think that’s what immigration advocates are trying to fight here trying to figure out, does the state of Texas really have the right to do this?”