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The latest anti-immigrant proposal to come out of the Texas Legislature (HB 20) would deputize anyone to apprehend people crossing the Texas border into the United States. Potential targets are likely to include all people of Latino descent, including Texans.

My mother came here as an immigrant; she was a white woman from a European country and arrived through Ellis Island. I still recall her stories of the harrowing trip—the fear, the loss and heartache, the insecurity around her unknown future.

Those anxieties are only exacerbated for people fleeing to the U.S.-Mexico border these days, often on foot for thousands of miles, seeking relief from armed gangs, climate disasters, grinding poverty and often all of these at once.

How is it that the “land of the free and the home of the brave” cannot find the heart to welcome people in need anymore? Is it because they are mostly Black and brown? Has the rhetoric of hate truly taken over our psyches and policy decisions?

When I heard about this new proposal, the slave patrols from before Emancipation came to mind. The stories passed down by the other side of my family that endured enslavement, and built this country, crowd in. The state-sponsored, inhumane free-for-all of violence marked by slave patrols lurks in the Texas proposal.

Migrants are being severely injured and dying: falling from border walls, in car chases with law enforcement, and of thirst and starvation in the desert. Do we need to add to the misery?

Vigilantism in Texas is not new. Just over 100 years ago, border vigilantes, often in collaboration with the Texas Rangers—now a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety—and local law enforcement killed hundreds of people in a terrible bout of racial violence. The Rangers also engaged in the same activities as the slave patrols, including lynching.

The tactics of the Texas Rangers have influenced the development of both the Texas Department of Public Safety and the federal Border Patrol. This legislation would essentially give license to vigilante groups to mete out punishment as they see fit, regardless of legal constraints. It may well be taken as tacit approval to commit atrocities of the kind that we’ve seen before. This is not the direction we as a country should want to take.

Instead, the world we want to see would offer outstretched hands of plenty to people in need. We can’t let racism and ignorance get the best of us. We have the resources and we have the love of humanity. 

Texas and the federal government (that means you, President Joe Biden) should stop funding Operation Lone Star and expanding border law enforcement. All of our communities would be better off if we seek to help people instead of harming them.

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