Chairman Birdwell and honorable members of the Senate Committee on border security. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. 

Esther Reyes

My name is Esther Reyes and I’m director of immigration policy and advocacy with the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas. 

We are a nonprofit children’s advocacy organization that believes that no child is expendable, and that advocates for the right of all children and their families regardless of immigration status to be safe and healthy. 

Children’s Defense Fund Texas stands firmly against Operation Lone Star, a racist operation that waste billions of Texas taxpayer dollars while Texans continue to face barriers to essential services like health care and quality public education. 

Here are just a few well-known facts about Operation Lone Star that you’ve likely already heard:

  • * Operation Lone Star has cost Texans over $4 billion in taxpayer money. A significant portion of these funds were used without authorization from the state Legislature. 
  • * Operation Lone Star is designed to criminalize and deport migrants. Since its inception, at least 6,000 migrants have been prosecuted for trespassing charges. And as my colleague mentioned in the previous panel, there’s increasing evidence that suggests that law enforcement agencies are actually fabricating these charges.
  • * Operation Lone Star also fuels and is fueled by white supremacist rhetoric that is harmful to all Texans. 

In short, Operation Lone Star hurts our communities and diverts funds from essential services like access to health coverage and quality education. 

Texas leads the nation with the highest uninsured rate at nearly double the national average for children and overall. Border communities who are bearing the brunt of Operation Lone Star already suffer from greater degrees of poverty than the rest of the state. Almost half of the border population is uninsured, and more than $3 billion is lost annually in productivity to chronic illness. Rather than wasting takes taxpayer dollars on a racist operation, our state leaders must remove barriers to help children and their families get the health coverage they need. 

Another significant challenge facing the Texas economy and Texas families is a lack of access to quality public education. Texas is failing its students. One of every five students in Texas does not graduate high school and the forecasted trend for when Texas will reach zero attrition rate is moving further and further away. Border districts are the least funded in Texas so it is no surprise that educational outcomes among border students are lagging behind. Our state leaders must invest in ensuring there’s sufficient opportunity and support for all children.

If we are truly concerned with the well being of our community, we must put an end to OLS today. If we are truly concerned with the well being of our communities, we must invest in our communities and not in a failed, unconstitutional and deeply racist immigration enforcement operation. Thank you.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by Esther Reyes, director of immigration policy and advocacy with the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas. Reyes first provided this commentary when testifying at a hearing of the Texas Senate Committee on Border Security at the state Capitol in Austin on Nov. 15, 2022. The “Chairman Birdwell” Reyes referred to is state Sen. Brian Birdwell of Granbury. He chairs the Senate Committee on Border Security.

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