The biggest share of arrests under Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's border crackdown are for trespassing

Abbott has said his border project is stopping smugglers and drug cartels, but the numbers show a different story.

click to enlarge Gov. Greg Abbott puts on his game face and a faux-military shirt for a photo op along the U.S.-Mexico border. - Instagram / governorabbott
Instagram / governorabbott
Gov. Greg Abbott puts on his game face and a faux-military shirt for a photo op along the U.S.-Mexico border.
People picked up on charges that solely involved trespassing on private property account for the largest share of arrests under Gov. Greg Abbott's border security crackdown, according to a new analysis of Texas Department of Public Safety data.

The investigation — conducted by the nonprofit news organizations the Texas Tribune, ProPublica and the Marshall Project — found that of the 7,200 arrests made by state police through Abbott's Operation Lone Star, 40% involved trespassing on private land and no other charges. In February, trespassing arrests accounted for the majority of busts under governor's much-touted initiative.

Those numbers run counter to Abbott's repeated claim that his $3 billion crackdown is targeting hardened criminals such as drug cartel members and human traffickers. During the Republican primary, the governor flooded the airwaves with TV ads crediting the operation with keeping the dangerous drug fentanyl off the street.

However, the arrestees interviewed for the joint reporting project "don’t fit the specter of the hardened criminals that Abbott conjured when launching his border security initiative," the author noted. Among those picked up on trespass charges were a Mexican farmer looking for work and a human-rights attorney fleeing political persecution in Venezuela, according to the story.

The new analysis follows an earlier investigation by the three news organizations which revealed that of the 11,000 arrests the state has attributed to Operation Lone Star, many had nothing to do immigration or were nowhere near the border. Further, the numbers were padded by statewide drug seizures by troopers not involved in the initiative, according to state data.

Operation Lone Star has faced criticism from human-rights groups as a cruel overstep of the state's authority. Democratic lawmakers have also asked for a federal investigation, citing a string of soldier suicides amid abysmal working conditions for Texas National Guard troops roped into Abbott's mission.

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