Public Defenders Across the Country Call on DOJ to Investigate Texas’ Unconstitutional “Operation Lone Star”

Arianna Rosales, National Immigration Project (NIPNLG),
Carolina Chau, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, 
Mai Tran, The Bronx Defenders,, (718) 508-3514 

***For Immediate Release*** 

Public Defenders Across the Country Call on DOJ to Investigate Texas’ Unconstitutional “Operation Lone Star”   

(NEW YORK, NY) — The Public Defenders Coalition for Immigrant Justice and 14 public defender offices across the country, including the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office, The Bronx Defenders, and the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, call on the U.S. Department of Justice to immediately investigate Texas’ unconstitutional “Operation Lone Star” (OLS) and to cut funding from local and state agencies that participate in the blatantly racist program. The demands documented in an open letter follow the Title VI discrimination complaints filed in recent months by Texas immigrant and civil rights organizations. The letter coincides with the release of a new Title VI discrimination complaint. The new complaint documents horrific civil rights abuses experienced by eleven migrants detained under OLS, as well as Texas’s further expansion of the program and active collaboration with a white supremacist militia to detain migrants. 

The coalition issued the following statement in response to the rampant violation of constitutional rights under OLS:  

“As public defenders who represent non-citizens in criminal and immigration proceedings, we stand firmly against Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s unlawful, xenophobic, and racist attempt to target migrants for arrest, jailing, and prosecution based on their perceived race and national origin. This policy will only increase the racial disparities and disproportionate jailing of Black and brown people in the immigration system.  

OLS now covers 53 counties and costs taxpayers $2.5 million every week. People seeking safety in the U.S. should be met with support, not the Texas Department of ‘Public Safety’ or the Texas National Guard. Governor Abbott’s program is rapidly expanding U.S. militarization at home and must be investigated. 

The program has created a two-tiered criminal legal system that operates parallel to and independent from the state’s ordinary system. Given the mounting violations of constitutional rights and new evidence that the program is operating on flawed data, the Department of Justice must act immediately to stop its expansion and terminate federal funding for any agency that violates Title VI by participating in the program.”  

Read the full letter here. Public defender organizations signed on to the letter include: Bexar County Public Defender; Capital Area Private Defender Service; Committee for Public Counsel Services (Massachusetts public defender agency); Dallas County Public Defender’s Office; Defender Association of Philadelphia; Harris County Public Defender’s Office; New Jersey Office of the Public Defender; Orleans Public Defenders; Pima County Public Defender; Public Defenders Coalition for Immigrant Justice; San Francisco Public Defender’s Office; Santa Clara County Office of the Public Defender (California); The Bronx Defenders; Travis County Public Defender’s Office (not on behalf of Travis County); Washington Defender Association  


  • People arrested and charged under OLS are siphoned to a shadow court that operates with its own dockets, booking, and detention facilities, as well as hand-picked judges and separate defense attorneys.  
  • Many people report waiting more than a month to be assigned counsel or never receiving counsel at all, violating their constitutional right to counsel and due process. This sets a dangerous and troubling precedent nationwide.  
  • More than 3,000 people have been arrested under OLS, almost all of which are Black and brown men and predominantly migrants. OLS regularly makes arrests without probable cause and there have been numerous reports of law enforcement officials directing people to enter private property in order to arrest them for trespassing.