Jul 19, 2023 - News

State investigating claims about Texas border practices

A family in the Rio Grande near barbed wire.

Immigrants wade in the Rio Grande near a barbed wire barrier. Photo: Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images

The Texas Office of the Inspector General is reportedly investigating a state trooper's claims against the state's border enforcement initiative, a Department of Public Safety spokesperson told the Texas Tribune.

  • Meanwhile, Texas Democrats are urging the White House to investigate the "inhumane" practices at the border.

What's happening: Texas troopers working Gov. Greg Abbott's Operation Lone Star initiative were ordered to push young children into the Rio Grande and not give immigrants water, according to internal emails reviewed exclusively by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News.

Background: Texas recently set up miles of barriers using barbed wire and buoys in the river near Eagle Pass, a section of the border that has seen the second-highest number of migrant crossings this fiscal year, according to the Associated Press.

  • Abbott has been adding razor wire in Eagle Pass since 2021. Abbott said at a news conference in May that he’s having to add more troops and razor wire because of "the chaos caused by Joe Biden lifting Title 42," blaming the Biden administration for not taking sufficient action to prevent migrants from crossing the border, per the Chronicle.

What they're saying: U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia, a Houston Democrat, called for a Department of Justice investigation Tuesday and wrote, "Razor wire-wrapped barrels in the river, pushing children back into the river, and denying water during extreme heat would be acts of deliberate, horrific torture. It would be beyond politics and cross a line into human rights violations."

  • Beto O'Rourke tweeted that there is "one person who has the power to stop Abbott … Mr. President, we need you to act."
  • U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro called it an "absolutely monstrous, inhumane policy" and said he spoke to Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a dinner Monday night.

Threat level: In an email, the trooper reported that wire has increased the number of drownings by forcing immigrants into deeper parts of the water, according to the newspapers. He wrote, "I believe we have stepped over a line into the inhumane."

  • A pregnant woman having a miscarriage was caught in the wire in June.
  • It also said a 4-year-old girl passed out from heat exhaustion as she attempted to pass the barrier and was pushed back by Texas National Guard soldiers.
  • A teen boy broke his leg trying to get around the barbed wire and had to be carried by his father.

The other side: DPS spokesman Travis Considine responded to Axios' request for comment by emailing a link to a tweet he posted.

  • "Troopers give migrants water. They treat their wounds. They save them from drowning. They also do everything possible to deter them from risking their lives in the first place," his tweet says.
  • He also shared emails from DPS director Steven McCraw on Saturday in which McCraw called for an audit to find ways to reduce risks to immigrants.
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