In a recent incident that has intensified the legal battle over border control between Texas and the federal government, three immigrants lost their lives while trying to cross the Rio Grande River.
The White House and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have pointed fingers at Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s policies for this tragedy.
Dispute over border patrol access and operation Lone Star
According to the DHS, on January 12, a woman and two children drowned near Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, a town that has become a significant crossing point for illegal immigrants.
The DHS alleges that Texas National Guard soldiers, as part of Operation Lone Star, physically barred Border Patrol agents from entering the park to save the drowning individuals.
This operation, initiated in 2021, has seen the Texas National Guard establish security points and barriers in the area, including Shelby Park.
On the same day as the drownings, Texas authorities announced complete control over the public park to deter illegal crossings.
Federal criticism and Texas’s defense
The DHS condemned the Texas governor’s policies as “cruel, dangerous, and inhumane.”
White House Assistant Press Secretary Angelo Fernández Hernández also criticized Governor Abbott, stating, “While we continue to gather facts about the circumstances of these tragic deaths, one thing is clear: Governor Abbott’s political stunts are cruel, inhumane, and dangerous. U.S. Border Patrol must have access to the border to enforce our laws.”
This incident adds to the ongoing feud between the federal and Texas state governments over border policies and jurisdiction.
Texas asserts sovereign authority over border
Texas has cited its constitutional right to protect its borders due to the federal government’s alleged failure to enforce immigration laws.
This stance has led to a record number of border crossings into Texas without federal support for its policies.
The Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Texas, claiming that Senate Bill 4, which allows state officials to arrest and seek the deportation of illegal immigrants, is unconstitutional.
Texas military department refutes allegations
In response to the allegations, the Texas Military Department (TMD) issued a statement on January 13, calling the claims that their personnel prevented the rescues “wholly inaccurate.”
The TMD stated that they were informed of the distressed migrants but found no sign of them, and Mexican authorities indicated no assistance was needed.
They further clarified, “At no time did TMD security personnel along the river observe any distressed migrants, nor did TMD turn back any illegal immigrants from the U.S. during this period.”
TMD’s thorough review and ensuing actions
Following a “thorough review” of the incident, the TMD maintained that the reports of National Guard soldiers blocking access were “inaccurate.”
The department stated that when Border Patrol agents requested access, the drownings had already occurred, and Mexican authorities were recovering the bodies.
Additionally, TMD personnel conducted searches to ensure no more individuals were in distress.