The Treasury Department watchdog has announced that its investigating Texas’ very questionable use of federal coronavirus funds, The Washington Post reports. Right-wing Gov. Greg Abbott and other GOP officials raided the federal funding as part of their effort to keep his illegal Operation Lone Star border stunt operational.
Treasury Department deputy inspector general Richard Delmar said that should the probe reveal that Texas misused the federal funds, he can “direct recoupment of the money,” the report said. Recent figures show state Republicans grabbing roughly $1 billion in federal funding to help keep detaining Black and brown migrants.
Congressional lawmakers led by Texas’ Joaquin Castro and Veronica Escobar had this week urged the Treasury Department to investigate Abbott using federal funds like his personal ATM for racist hate, writing that he was diverting money from critical public sector resources. “It is negligent and irresponsible for Governor Abbot to direct additional funding to Operation Lone Star, especially if the funding in question was intended to help Texans rebuild from the pandemic,” they wrote.
Lawmakers noted that Treasure Department rules state that federal funds are supposed to address “lost public sector revenue due to the pandemic,” “the far-reaching public health and negative economic impacts of the pandemic,” and “water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure” investments. But Texas swapped around funds to help keep a border scheme that has targeted Black and brown migrants for illegal detention.
”Essentially, state leaders rerouted public health and safety funds to their border operations, while relying on federal pandemic funds to replace some of the money, according to a Washington Post analysis of spending records,” The Washington Post said.
It appears Congress may not have put enough rules in place in dealing with shameless politicians like Greg Abbott, because the report notes some states have invested in “a host of seemingly wasteful pet projects, including refurbishing prisons and constructing new golf courses. One state, Arizona, even used the money to discourage schools from requiring students to wear masks, prompting the Treasury Department to threaten to claw back the aid.”
Abbott also enacted policies to help the virus, including blocking businesses in the state from requiring vaccinations. Like in Texas, Arizona GOP officials have used white supremacist “invasion" rhetoric to describe asylum-seeking families. Recall Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko’s infamous, now-deleted tweet claiming that "more than 1,000,000,000 migrants"—that’s billion with a b!—were apprehended by U.S. border officials in a span of six months.
“Texas has struggled immensely during the pandemic, and these funds are critical to help our state recover from the devastation of the past two years,” lawmakers had continued in their letter to the Treasury Department. “Governor Abbott must not be allowed to use federal coronavirus relief funds to further his political theater at the expense of Texas families.”
Abbott is now facing a federal lawsuit over his unlawful detentions, with plaintiffs seeking $5 million in damages. While the policy has faced challenges in state court, this recent litigation represents the first suit in federal court.
”Under the program, [Texas Department of Public Safety] officers collaborate with the Texas National Guard and county sheriff’s offices to arrest Black and brown migrants on state misdemeanor criminal trespass charges,” a court filing said. Some migrants who have faced trespassing charges have then seen those charges dropped after they revealed officers zip-tied their hands, forced them to climb 10-foot-fencing onto private property, and then arrested them for trespassing.
“@GovAbbott is taking away pandemic money for Texans to fund his failed political stunt,” tweeted Castro. “I’m glad that after my letter with @RepEscobar, the @USTreasury is looking into how Texas is using federal relief money to fund Operation Lone Star.”
Republished with permission from Daily Kos.