Border Agents Allege Texas Stopped Them From Saving Three Migrants Who Drowned

After taking over a park by the border, Texas allegedlly stopped border agents from saving a mother and two children who drowned

Rio Grande drowned migrants

Photo: Pixabay/ 12019

Immigration remains a huge topic of debate and a source of pain for the Latinx community both in Latin America and the U.S. Many of us are children of immigrants or immigrants ourselves and have witnessed first-hand the hardships that come with immigrating to the U.S. This year has seen tighter restrictions taking place all across border states. On January 11, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott took control of Shelby Park in Eagle Pass right next to the Rio Grande, overriding federal jurisdiction, in a new campaign to curb immigration known as Operation Lone Star along with using razor wire and anti-climb barriers. Three days later, the Texas Military Department and Texas National Guard stationed at the park allegedly blocked federal border agents who said they were trying to save three migrants drowning in the Rio Grande. The migrants, whose bodies were recovered by Mexican authorities, were later revealed to be a family: a mother, an eight-year-old girl, and a 10-year-old boy, according to Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“In responding to a distress call from the Mexican government, Border Patrol agents were physically barred by Texas officials from entering the park,” Homeland Security said in a statement to CNN. “The Texas governor’s policies are cruel, dangerous, and inhumane, and Texas’s blatant disregard for federal authority over immigration poses grave risks.”

The Rio Grande is one of the most common points of entry for migrants but it’s also the most dangerous. Since the ’90s, the river has claimed hundreds of lives every year, at its peak killing 568 people in 2021. However, this recent case is unique in that the deaths of the family could’ve potentially been stopped if federal authorities had been allowed to intercept. At the time of the incident, Border Patrol agents stated that they received an alert from Mexican authorities that the migrants were struggling to stay afloat in the river. However, they were physically prevented from entering the park even though it was an emergency and were told a soldier would go to investigate. Mexican officials recovered the bodies of a woman and two children on Friday night and rescued two others who were with them who are suffering from hypothermia, NPR reported.

In the wake of the allegations, the Texas Military Department has challenged Border Patrol’s claims, stating that they didn’t find migrants when they received the distress call, that they are well-equipped to handle assisting migrants in medical emergencies, and that federal agents tried to access the park only after the migrants had drowned.

“At no time did TMD security personnel along the river observe any distressed migrants, nor did TMD turn back any illegal immigrants from the US during this period,” the department said in a statement, according to CNN.

It’s not known what actions are being taken to protect migrants and stop incidents like this from happening in the future. For now, problems of jurisdiction between state and federal authorities are continuing as they address immigration. As a result of Abbott’s policies, the Biden administration is threatening a third lawsuit if Border Patrol isn’t given access to the park by end of day Wednesday, Jan. 17 and they’ve requested that the Supreme Court intervene, the local NBC news station reported. Congressman Joaquin Castro is pushing for the Texas National Guard to be federalized and has criticized Abbott for politicizing the guard in the process.

“Texas has continued to impede Border Patrol’s ability to access the border,” the Department of Justice said in a memo on Monday. “Texas stands in the way of Border Patrol patrolling the border, identifying and reaching any migrants in distress, securing those migrants, and even accessing any wire that it may need to cut or move to fulfill its responsibilities.”

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