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Operation Lone Star sees new criticism amid debate over buoy barrier in the Rio Grande

Operation Lone Star sees new criticism
Operation Lone Star sees new criticism 02:42

AUSTIN ( — A federal judge in Austin has asked both sides in the debate over whether to pull the controversial floating buoy barrier out of the Rio Grande to provide more documentation and reconvene on Friday, when a decision could be made.

Meanwhile, a group of immigration advocates who are pushing for Texas Governor Greg Abbott to end Operation Lone Star (OLS) held a virtual conference on Wednesday, lobing new criticism of OLS.

The operation was launched two-and-half years ago by Gov. Abbott, who called on Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers, National Guard members, and even out-of-state law enforcement to help secure the southern border.

The group criticizing OLS mainly focused on their characterization of it being a misuse of taxpayer money and the justice system.

They claim the billions of dollars being used to fund OLS is excessive, and that the tactics and techniques being employed by law enforcement officers on the ground are inhumane.

Kristin Etter, and attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid said, "So Operation Lone Star 2.0 is not only more deadly in terms of its use of concertina wire and buoys that are clearly designed to funnel our clients into arrest locations."

Jaime Puente, Every Texan's director of economic opportunity, added, "Texas deserves effective state leadership, not Operation Lone Star's waste. It's time for Governor Abbott to stop diverting critical funding for the education and health care systems we deserve."

In response, Texas DPS Lieutenant Christopher Olivarez defended OLS, saying the reason they're facing criticism is because they're making an impact—a positive impact. "Of course, we expect that. We expect there would be criticism from other individuals, you know, pro-immigration activists, open border activists, even some political figures that don't agree with what we are doing."

Lt. Olivarez provided DPS data that shows since the program began in March of 2021, they have made more than 420,000 illegal immigration apprehensions, more than 33,000 criminal arrests and close to 9,000 criminal trespass arrests.

"The facts are that the federal government has neglected to secure the border. That's why we have had to step in from day one, and we continue to step in and allocate more money for border security," he said.

The debate over the legality and humanity of using the buoys as a floating barrier is just the most recent point of contention.

As a federal judge continues to work towards a decision on the future of the buoys, Lt. Olivarez says the decision—whatever it may be—will have long-lasting effects.

"This is going to set precedence moving forward in terms of border security and how we can add infrastructure at the river or along the river," he said. "So we are going to continue maintaining operations as far as the criticism we have been facing is not going to slow us down. We have support from those who reside in Texas and other places as well."

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