Texas has seen an increase in deaths caused by immigration-related high-speed chases, according to a report from Human Rights Watch.
The 77-page report titled, “So Much Blood on the Ground: Dangerous and Deadly Vehicle Pursuits under Texas’ Operation Lone Star,” was released on Monday, and discusses the increase seen in vehicle chases by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and local law enforcement since implementing the Operation Lone Star (OLS) program.
The program was initiated in March 2021 Governor Greg Abbott’s and is a border law enforcement program, the purpose of which is to stop “the smuggling of people and drugs into Texas,” while also deterring or arresting migrants attempting to cross the Texas-Mexico border.
“In the 29 months between the start of OLS in March 2021 and July 2023, at least 74 people were killed and another 189 injured as the result of 49 pursuits by Texas troopers or local law enforcement, or both, in Operation Lone Star Counties,” the report stated.
The dangers of the U.S. Mexico Border
Of the 5,230 total vehicle pursuits that DPS troopers engaged in since March 2021 — across all of Texas’ 254 counties — 3,558 of them (68 percent) occurred in the 60 OLS counties. The report also noted that those 60 OLS counties only account for 13 percent of the state’s population.
United States police departments have put restrictions in place for vehicle pursuits, including the Houston Police Department. The report emphasized that these restrictions reflect growing acknowledgement that vehicle pursuits lead to a “high risk of loss of life, serious personal injury, and serious property damage.”
The report emphasized that not all of the people killed or injured during these pursuits were directly involved in the pursuits. Among the bystanders was a 7-year-old girl who was killed, and five additional children, ages unknown, have been injured, the report highlighted.
81 percent of the vehicle pursuits that occurred in OLS counties were initiated because of traffic violation, 97 percent of which were traffic misdemeanors, which can include a failure to obey an attempted stop by law enforcement, speeding, or not obeying traffic signals.
The report reminded State officials that they are obligated to respect the rights of Texas residents and people in Texas including protecting the human right to life, regardless of their citizenship.
“A first step should be ending vehicle chases; a second should be ending Operation Lone Star and investing taxpayer dollars instead in tackling specific and genuine public safety threats, and improving the schools, roads, infrastructure, and communities of Texas,” the report concluded.
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