This week, MAGA Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee are embarking on their latest partisan stunt: another trip to the southern border. The witnesses participating in this hearing have records of unconstitutional law enforcement practices, conspiracy theories, and white nationalist “invasion” rhetoric. There can be no doubt that these MAGA lawmakers care more about scoring points with their far-right base than actually solving immigration or fixing the border.
Texas Republican Steven McCraw, who oversees all state troopers and the state’s potentially unconstitutional border patrol operation, has faced bipartisan calls to resign over the state’s disastrous law enforcement response to a school shooting in Uvalde. Fox News favorite Chris Cabrera leads a powerful union that spread conspiracies about a border patrol agent’s death for political gain. Brad Coe is a county sheriff who declared an “invasion” of his rural Texas county, raking in millions of dollars for his county through Operation Lone Star, and is named in an ongoing civil rights complaint for racial profiling. Instead of carefully selecting immigration experts to testify, the House GOP has enlisted yet another group of right-wing extremists to serve as witnesses.
Colonel Steven C. McCraw
Director, Texas Department of Public Safety
Steven McCraw Oversaw The Disastrous Law Enforcement Response To A School Shooting in Uvalde. In May 2022, a school shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas left 19 children and two adults dead. Law enforcement officers were called to the scene immediately, but waited more than an hour to confront the shooter—a move that could have cost the lives of some of the victims, according to state investigators. Ninety-one DPS troopers were at the scene, most of which from Operation Lone Star, a state-funded border security unit. At least five troopers are under investigation for their conduct that day, and the Texas Public Safety Commission fired Sgt. Juan Maldonado in October 2022.
- Steven McCraw Is Facing Bipartisan Calls to Resign. Numerous public officials have called for DPS Director Steven McCraw’s resignation over the Uvalde shooting. Uvalde’s state senator sued DPS for not releasing Uvalde shooting records and has called for his resignation. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) also called for McCraw to resign in October 2022, tweeting “DPS Director McCraw should RESIGN immediately.” Brett Cross, guardian of Uziyah Garcia, one of the children killed at Robb Elementary, has also demanded that McCraw resign.
- Steven McCraw Has Refused To Resign After Admitting He Concealed Information, Confessing To “Abject Failure” At State Hearing. During a state Senate hearing, McCraw admitted that he issued false information in the aftermath of the shooting, including “telling the media that a teacher had propped open a door allowing the shooter to enter the school.” He also admitted that the law enforcement response was an “abject failure,” and demanded that every responder “be held accountable for their actions.” Despite admitting to his own failures amid calls to resign from victims’ family members, political opponents, and his own colleagues, McCraw still refuses to resign as Director of DPS.
Texas Officials Want Congress to “Reimburse Texas” For Steven McCraw’s Border Patrol Initiative. Operation Lone Star, which has been spearheaded by DPS Director McCraw, has cost more than $4 billion in state and federal funds so far. State lawmakers are reportedly scrambling for new federal funding amid staffing challenges: “Sarah Hicks, the governor’s budget director told the Border Security Committee the governor wants county judges to urge their representatives in congress to, ‘redouble their efforts in January when they reconvene to require the federal government to once again address the border situation with the urgency and seriousness that it demands and to reimburse Texas for the billions of dollars that the state has had to spend in the absence of federal action.’ But time alone will tell whether the U.S. Congress recently elected will support those requests.” A state judge recently ruled that Operation Lone Star unconstitutionally violates federal authority, and the program remains “in peril.”
Under Director McCraw, DPS Accused of Overlooking White Nationalist Ties and Racial Profiling By State Troopers. McCraw is facing multiple complaints of lax oversight of state troopers’ activities, particularly racial profiling and ties to white nationalists. Independent studies have found “concerning” evidence pointing to widespread racial profiling practices by Operation Lone Star troopers, disproportionately pulling over ethnic and racial minorities and subjecting them to searches for contraband. The ACLU and Texas Civil Rights project have accused DPS of offering little guidance on when to chase fleeing vehicles, leading to dozens of deaths from high-speed chases. McCraw has also denied assertions that DPS holds close ties with white supremacists, including the president of the Patriot Boys militia group. Operation Lone Star troopers’ “coziness” with white nationalists was well-documented as hundreds flocked to the Texas-Mexico border last year to privately patrol the border.
April 2019: An Anti-Immigrant Group Pushed for Trump To Appoint Director McCraw DHS Secretary. In 2019, the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies endorsed Steven McCraw to join the Trump administration as Secretary of Homeland Security: “McCraw certainly has the sort of background that President Trump has traditionally looked for in leadership roles […] Should the president decide to go with new leadership yet again, and if the rumors are correct, Steve McCraw would be an excellent choice to coordinate the efforts of the more than 240,000 employees at DHS…The New York Post reports that this individual ‘would coordinate how federal law enforcement and immigration authorities implement’ the president’s so-called “hardline policies’. Again, McCraw has headed a sprawling law-enforcement department and instituted an effective state-level operation to respond to criminal threats along more than half of the 1,954-mile border with Mexico. As border czar, he would simply have more resources at his disposal to control all of it. The president could do worse than calling McCraw back to Washington to carry out his border policies. If the rumors are true, he may.”
Long Before Uvalde, Director McCraw Was the Subject Of Scandals Surrounding Exaggerated Arrest Numbers, Privacy Violations, and Wrongful Deaths. Col. McCraw was the subject of a number of scandals prior to the Uvalde shooting. In 2014, McCraw illegally directed all Texas DMVs to collect samples of every applicants’ fingerprints, despite the law calling for only one thumbprint. After facing backlash, he attempted to amend the law through a hidden appropriations provision, but was forced to back down after several Republicans lawmakers rebuked the proposal. In 2015, McCraw set up a domestic surveillance system that resulted in zero arrests. That year, McCraw’s agency was caught exaggerating drug arrest numbers by taking credit for federal cases. His office also oversaw the infamous arrest and jailhouse death of Sandra Bland by a state trooper, which resulted in a $1.9 million settlement.
Vice President, National Border Patrol Council
Chris Cabrera Leads A Powerful Border Patrol Union Embroiled In An Embezzlement Scandal. Cabrera is a former border patrol agent currently serving as the Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council, a powerful union being investigated by the FBI over a massive embezzlement scandal. The FBI is looking into the theft of over $500,000 in border patrol union funding from the El Paso branch. The union represents about 20,000 border patrol agents, and the El Paso sector is among the busiest in the country. Almost five years ago, the union discovered “$352,389.31 that was misappropriated. They also found that there was another $150,035.65 that was not properly paid to the IRS in tax money. Somebody pocketed it, just up and walked away.” In March 2022, a federal grand jury indicted the union’s bookkeeper on charges of tax and bank fraud.
Chris Cabrera Is A Longtime Trump Supporter. Cabrera was an early Trump supporter, advocating for his border wall as early as July 2016: “As Border Patrol agents, we’re not anti-immigrant. And I don’t think Trump is anti-immigrant. His wife’s an immigrant. He’s anti-illegal immigration. We’re for the immigration system—just against the illegal part.” Two years into the Trump administration, he said the National Border Patrol Council was “100 percent” behind President Trump, and Cabrera made few media appearances to report on the state of the southern border, despite a border crisis involving the administration’s widely-denounced family separation policy.
Chris Cabrera Spread Conspiracies About A Border Patrol Agent’s Death For Political Gain. In 2017, border patrol agent Rogelio Martinez was found badly wounded near the border and later died. Although U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBS) found no evidence of struggle and labeled the cause of death as “undetermined,” the National Border Patrol Council declared that Martinez had been killed by migrants, and used the opportunity to push for increased border security. Cabrera repeatedly spoke out in favor of his theory that Martinez had been murdered by migrants, echoing rhetoric by MAGA Republicans including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Gov. Greg Abbott, and former President Donald Trump.
- Republicans Like Donald Trump, Greg Abbott, and Ted Cruz Used the Opportunity to Call For Funding For His Border Wall. Shortly after the agent’s death was reported, former President Trump used the opportunity to call attention to his border policies, tweeting: “Border Patrol Officer killed at southern Border, another badly hurt. We will seek out and bring to justice those responsible. We will, and must, build the Wall!” Gov Abbott reportedly said that the agent was murdered and offered a reward to help catch the killer. Sen. Ted Cruz also said Martinez was killed.
- Customs & Border Protection: No Autopsy Evidence To Suggest Murder. Law enforcement officials immediately recognized that the wounds were inconsistent with murder. According to CBS’ report on the incident, “There were no defensive wounds [on Martinez and his partner] and there was no third-party blood or DNA evidence from the scene or from the agents’ clothing. […] The absence of evidence is a key factor in this case – not due to lack of effort or determination, but because evidence which would indicate the presence of other persons or the commission of a criminal act is not present.”
- Cabrera Ignored Border Officials, Continued to Claim The Agent Was Attacked. Shortly after Martinez’s death, Cabrera released a statement: “What we understand from our agents that responded is Agent Martinez and his partner were struck repeatedly in the head and face with a rock or rocks by either one or a number of individuals.” Even after the report was released, Cabrera continued to push his theory over CBS, stating, “Our view hasn’t changed. Our view is he was attacked. It seems to me that they don’t have any leads.”
Congressional Republicans Previously Used Chris Cabrera To Testify About Right-Wing Conspiracies In 2015. In 2015, Cabrera testified before the Senate, where he claimed that “border patrol agents were forced to systematically understate the number of illegal immigrants entering the country by their superiors.” He alleged that only 40% of migrants are stopped at the border, accusing the CBP of falsely claiming that 75% are detained. Cabrera has since continued to claim that the federal government is undercounting migrants. In 2021, he told Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) that 1.2 million people “may have evaded detection and sneaked [sic] into the U.S. over the last year, and more will come if they hear about plans to pay $450,000 to some migrants. […] There’s no way we’re anywhere near that low of a number. That number is at least twice, if not three times that number. There’s a huge number of gotaways.”
Chris Cabrera Is a Frequent Face on Right-Wing News Media. Cabrera frequently appears on right-wing media to criticize the Biden administration and spread hysteria about the southern border. Just this week, Cabrera spoke on WBAP, a Texas-based right-wing radio station, to discuss kidnappings by a Mexican drug cartel. In February 2023, Cabrera appeared on Fox News twice, first claimed that the Biden Administration was scaling back “imperative” surveillance blimps, causing a “tremendous negative effect.” He also called for the impeachment of Alejandro Mayorkas. In January, Cabrera accused the Biden administration of letting “tens of thousands of migrants just walk across the border” and “laying out a Welcome mat” on WBAP. In December, he claimed on Fox News that the southern border is “way past out of control.” These are just a few of the latest appearances Cabrera has made on right-wing media. Over the past two years, he has spread bizarre conspiracies, including one the Department of Homeland Security deliberately releasing migrants with COVID-19 into border towns.
Sheriff Brad Coe
Kinney County, Texas
Brad Coe Was Named In A Civil Rights Complaint Over Racial Profiling For Operation Lone Star. Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe is a key figure in Texas’ potentially unconstitutional border security initiative known as Operation Lone Star. Along with six deputies, the former border patrol agent has been working with state troopers to “funnel migrants through a special judicial system created specifically for them.” In late 2021, Sheriff Coe was named in a federal discrimination complaint filed by a coalition of civil rights groups, alleging civil rights violations against non-White Texans suspected of illegally crossing the border. The civil rights coalition asked a court to hold Sheriff Coe and other officials in contempt after her clients were transferred to U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody instead of being released to their attorneys. According to the complaint, the vast majority of the more than 2,200 trespassing arrests made under the program this year were in Kinney County.
- Brad Coe Claims Community Backs Him “110 Percent.” His Constituents Say Otherwise. When confronted about the civil rights complaint, Coe claimed, “The community is behind this 110 percent because they are tired of their property being damaged, tired of fences being cut and tired of pursuits.” Many residents in the rural county, however, have expressed frustrations about the Operation. Coe has overwhelmed the local justice system, forcing county attorneys to handle hundreds of cases: “The jury pool is busy, and we may end up with two grand juries to convene every other week.” Constituents are also frustrated with “fearmongering” by their local elected officials and armed militia members drawn to the county by far-right rallies and the national media attention. Coe’s claims of an “invasion” drew “dozens of right-wing media outlets, YouTube content creators, and armed militias to the county, but also former members of the Trump administration and candidates vying for the former president’s endorsement leading up to the midterm elections.”
- Kinney County Has Received Millions of Dollars From Operation Lone Star Grants and Migrant Bond Money. After Coe and other county officials declared a disaster, Republican lawmakers granted Kinney County nearly $3.2 million to the county for law enforcement and the prosecution of migrants. County officials have profited handsomely from targeting, detaining, and prosecuting migrants. Between August 2021 and July 2022, Kinney County prosecuted more than 3,500 migrants for trespassing, pocketing around $3 million in bond money from migrant defendants.
Brad Coe Has Used Inflammatory and Racist Rhetoric. Coe has spread inflammatory and racist rhetoric about a “silent invasion” at the southern border, claiming that armed military-age migrants decked out in camouflage are supposedly “invading” the border, posing as a “Trojan horse” for Mexican gangs and cartels in major American cities. Contrary to Coe’s narrative, many immigration experts say that nearly all migrants are unarmed, with most fleeing poverty and violence in hopes of asylum.
Brad Coe Welcomed Armed Militia Members With Ties To QAnon, White Nationalism To Patrol the Border. Sheriff Coe is in regular contact with a group of armed vigilante militias aligned with white nationalists. These vigilante groups target groups of suspected migrants, then pass them off to law enforcement for arrest. One such group, Patriots for America, is aligned with QAnon conspiracy theorists and has raised tens of thousands of dollars through a Christian crowdfunding site. Coe welcomed the groups, reportedly saying he was “looking for any help he can get in trying to drive migrant traffic elsewhere.” State officials, however, have expressed concerns about armed civilians undergoing private operations acting as law enforcement officers: “Coe said when he started working with the militias, he received pushback from the Texas Department of Public Safety, causing concern the state would pull resources from the county.”
Brad Coe Holds Extreme Views On Immigration. Coe holds extreme views on immigration and border policy, going to great lengths to impose his dangerous ideology. He conducted extrajudicial “deportations,” driving migrants back to the border in lieu of apprehending them for trespassing and giving them a fair and impartial jury trial. Coe has called for President Biden to completely “shut down the border” in order to bring the Mexican government “to our table to help discuss this.”
Brad Coe Worked Closely With An Anti-Immigrant Hate Group. In September 2022, Brad Coe was part of a group of sheriffs associated with the extremist constitutional sheriff movement who lent their support to the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform. During the event, Coe defended his extrajudicial deportations, claiming, “We put them in a truck and took them home.”