Hispanic Democrats send letter urging Biden administration to investigate Texas’ separation of migrant fathers

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Hispanic Democratic lawmakers are putting pressure on the Biden administration to investigate and halt any separation of migrant fathers from their families by a Texas state agency along the U.S-Mexico border.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus urged the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday to “immediately launch an investigation” into the Texas Department of Public Safety for separating fathers from their wives and children as they seek asylum along the Rio Grande sector of the border.

In a letter provided first to the PBS NewsHour, lawmakers called on Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to investigate the potential due process violations and to quickly reunite the fathers with their families.

The lawmakers also pressed the Justice Department to expedite any ongoing probe into how federal dollars are being used by Texas “in ways that violate civil rights and anti-discrimination laws.”

“The Biden administration should at a minimum make sure that no federal dollars are being used for these nefarious purposes of separating families [and] human rights violations,” Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, who signed onto the letter, told the NewsHour.

Read the full letter by clicking the document below.
CHC letter read full (2)

Under a state disaster declaration in 2021, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star, a border initiative designed to halt migration between ports of entry.

Now, two years later, Castro says Texas officials are using tactics that have “escalated to human rights violations” by deploying massive buoy barriers on the Rio Grande, erecting razor wire fencing and sending buses packed with asylum seekers to Democratic-run cities.

The new demands from 28 Hispanic lawmakers come after a visit last week by members of the Hispanic Caucus to the border community of Eagle Pass, as well as multiple reports of separations earlier this month.

“Based on news reports and confirmed by CHC members during a recent Congressional Delegation (CODEL) visit to the Rio Grande sector of the U.S.-Mexico border, Texas DPS troopers have broken up at least 26 families by arresting the fathers for criminal trespass and incarcerating them in state prison since July 10,” the letter states.

In the letter, the Hispanic lawmakers also share a firsthand report from immigration and civil rights advocates on the ground who told them that migrants incarcerated by the Texas Department of Public Safety are “living in horrendous prison conditions.”

“It’s been reported that some migrants have experienced violations of their due process rights with promises to be released if they plead guilty to criminal trespass. If not, they are threatened with months of jail time,” Hispanic Caucus Chair Nanette Barragán, D-Calif., said in a statement to the NewsHour. “The Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security must conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into this troubling situation.”

A DHS spokesperson called the reports of family separations “troubling” in a statement to NewsHour, adding that it “should be thoroughly investigated.”

“We can both enforce our laws and treat human beings with dignity,” the spokesperson said. “Unlawful border crossings have gone down since our border enforcement plan went into effect.” The spokesperson did not say if Homeland Security is conducting an investigation. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.

In response to reports of the family separations by the Houston Chronicle and ABC News, the Texas Department of Public Safety said there are instances where male migrants have been arrested while with their families. Mothers and children weren’t separated, the Texas agency said.

The separations of men from their families came to light a month after Abbott deployed a floating barrier on the Rio Grande. Two bodies have since been found near the buoys. The Justice Department quickly filed a lawsuit against Texas for the floating barriers, claiming they were unlawfully installed without permission from surrounding border communities.

During lawmakers’ recent visit to Eagle Pass, Castro called on the White House to suspend cooperation between U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Texas’ Public Safety Department. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday that the White House didn’t have a response to the congressman.

Instead, Jean-Pierre responded to a NewsHour question about a 3-year-old migrant child who died on a chartered bus paid for by Abbott’s Operation Lone Star program. Jean-Pierre called the child’s death “horrific news” and “heartbreaking.”


Watch the clip in the player above.

“It is unfortunate that [Abbott] continues to do this and it doesn’t just put, sadly, young migrants, or migrants, at risk, but it also puts at risk the Border Patrol who are trying to do their job, and he gets in the way of that every day,” Jean-Pierre said during a White House press briefing.

The bus carrying the child was headed to Chicago from Brownsville, Texas. To date, that state has bused more than 30,000 migrants to Democratic-run cities, according to a press release issued by Abbott’s office last week.

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