McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Criticisms were harsh and came from several organizations and Mexican officials on Thursday after reports that a body had been found in the new marine buoy barrier that the state has put in the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas.
“This horrifying news is so sadly predictable. We’ve warned that people and wildlife would die from the day Gov. Abbott deployed these lethal traps in the river,” Laiken Jordahl, Southwest conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, told Border Report on Thursday.
“Each day the floating wall and concertina wire are allowed to stay up, more migrants will be injured or killed and more wildlife will suffer. Gov. Abbott is turning this beautiful river — the lifeblood of South Texas — into a death trap for people and wildlife. He must be stopped,” Jordahl said.
“Abbott’s border policies have taken yet another life,” said Joaquin Garcia, director of community organizing for La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE). “Border barriers and deterrence policies are the cause of this tragedy. Unfortunately, people seeking safety will continue to die at the border as long as there are no safe and efficient options for them to seek asylum and more border militarization is deployed.”
Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that the Texas Department of Public Safety on Wednesday afternoon notified the Mexican Consulate in Eagle Pass that “they found the body of a lifeless person stuck in the southern part of the buoys that were placed in the Rio Grande.”
Hours later, Mexican officials said a second body was found about 3 miles upriver, the Associated Press reported.
A rescue operation was underway, according to the Spanish statement.
Neither the victims’ nationalities nor the cause of death was known.
“We reiterate the position of the Government of Mexico that the placement of wire buoys by Texas authorities is a violation of our sovereignty. We express our concern about the impact on the human rights and personal safety of migrants,” Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Andrew Mahaleris, a spokesman for Abbott, told the Dallas Morning News on Thursday that the Mexican government was “flat-out wrong” and that the person drowned upstream.
Mahaleris said it’s unfortunate that people drown when they attempt to cross the river illegally, adding that it stems from “the reckless open border policies of President Biden and (Mexican) President López Obrador.”
“If [they] truly cared about human life, they would do their jobs and secure the border,” he told the Morning News.
Abbott has defended the new 1,000-foot-long string of spherical orange buoys that are tethered with concrete to the base of the Rio Grande are necessary to deter illegal immigration in the river between the small border town of Eagle Pass, Texas, and Piedras Negras, Mexico.
It’s part of the state’s Operation Lone Star border security initiative.
“What the State of Texas is doing through those buoys is not in violation of the statute. Texas is defending its sovereignty and constitutional right to secure the border of our state and our country,” Abbott said in late July prior to news of the deaths.
Abbott’s office says since Operation Lone Star began in 2021, it has led to the apprehension of nearly 400,000 migrants on the Texas/Mexico border, including over 31,800 criminal arrests.
In a letter sent to President Joe Biden on July 24, Abbott defended the $1 million string of buoys writing: “If you would just enforce the immigration laws Congress already has on the books, America would not be suffering from your record-breaking level of illegal immigration.”
“I share the humanitarian concerns,” Abbott added. “Neither of us wants to see another death in the Rio Grande River. Yet your open-border policies encourage migrants to risk their lives by crossing illegally through the water, instead of safely and legally at a port of entry. Nobody drowns on a bridge.”
The federal government has sued the State of Texas for removal of the buoys, saying it violates the Rivers and Harbor Act.
U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat from Texas, announced Thursday that he plans to lead a congressional delegation to Eagle Pass on Tuesday to see the buoys and razor wire dispatched on the bank of the Rio Grande.
Garcia, of LUPE, urged the federal government take these steps to stop the buoys: “The Department of Justice must take additional steps and to put an immediate halt on Abbott’s Operation Lonestar. The Department of Homeland Security should cease to collaborate with Texas’ illegal and racist border operations. The White House should stop endorsing deterrence tactics that ignore the humanitarian needs of children, families, and individuals at the border.”
Joshua Rubin, founder of the Witness at the Border told Border Report: “That the bodies of children would turn up, tangled in the cruel barriers placed there in the name of deterrence, was inevitable. More will die, and more will mourn their children, unless we call on the better angels of our nature to see ourselves in the faces of the dispossessed and homeless.”
In El Paso, in Far West Texas, migrant advocates say the deaths warrant a criminal investigation.
“You are planning for people to die in the river. You should be accountable to somebody,” said El Paso labor activist Guillermo Glenn. “The migrants trying to cross the river are human beings. … If it’s because of the buoys, I think Abbott and the state of Texas, whatever department, they should face the consequences. Our people continue to be murdered like that; I don’t know if you call it murder but it’s very extreme. There has to be some other way.”
Some activists say they had warned of the possible dangers of installing the marine barriers.
“We announced it, we denounced it that the governor was putting forward strategies that were not only extremist, racist, anti-immigrant but also very dangerous. We knew that the moment they put those buoys on the river they were a dangerous trap for immigrants. And we called it out. We essentially said this is going to kill people. And now we know that has happened already. Two bodies already,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso. “Those bodies, those migrants, their blood is in the governor’s hands.”