John C. Moritz and Kate Perez, Corpus Christi Caller Times, July 19, 2023
Texas border control policies are being heavily criticized after a state trooper said employees were told to push migrants “back into the water” of the Rio Grande when they reach the American side of the river as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security initiative.
The criticisms come after reports were published late Monday by Hearst Newspapers quoting an email sent by one trooper from the Texas Department of Public Safety and backed up by another that migrants’ lives were being put in danger by Abbott’s Operation Lone Star.
According to a January press release, Operation Lone Star has “led to over 340,000 illegal immigrant apprehensions and more than 23,000 criminal arrests, with more than 21,000 felony charges reported” since the program’s start in March 2021.
In a news release Tuesday afternoon, Abbott insisted no policies have been implemented that would lead to the mistreatment of people attempting to cross without legal authorization.
Meanwhile, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Travis Considine said the agency’s Office of Inspector General was investigating the allegations.
Considine also released an email from McCraw reminding his chain of command that frontline officers at the border cannot ignore migrants who are at risk, even if they crossed the river without legal authorization.
The Texas Democratic congressional delegation Tuesday condemned the reports stating that Texas state troopers have been ordered to push migrants back into The Rio Grande.
Several of the lawmakers in the virtual news conference from Washington also expressed frustration that the Democratic Biden administration has not asserted its federal authority and has allowed the Republican governor to effectively set immigration policy in Texas.
“I think, in short, the administration simply needs to tell Greg Abbott to get out of the way,” said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin, who was among a dozen Democrats participating in the event.
The congressional Democrats continued their criticism that they have aired since the border initiative was launched two years ago but said the stepped-up policies by the three-term Republican governor that include installing floating barriers in the international river are both illegal and inhumane.
“We’re asking for Greg Abbott to cease operation of his Operation Lone Star until these claims can be fully investigated and can be rectified,” said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, the organizer of the call. “This should not be policy or practice of the state of Texas for the Department of Public Safety.”
The trooper report comes after buoys began to be installed in Eagle Pass, Texas, intended to become an extra barrier for migrants to pass through.
This initiative also earned Abbott criticism, with U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar of El Paso writing a letter last week asking the U.S. Justice and State departments to examine whether installation of buoys is legal under federal law and international treaties.
The Democratic lawmakers also pressed on whether the Biden administration was, in effect, ceding federal authority to Abbott, who has been among the nation’s leading critics of post-Trump immigration policies.
The Hearst report set off a firestorm in Texas and in Washington. Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said the actions cited in the trooper’s email are “reprehensible” and “denigrates” the lives of migrants.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters the actions were “abhorrent.”
“It is despicable. It is dangerous,” she said. “And we’re talking about the bedrock values of who we are as a country.”
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Wednesday that he did not believe that troopers were told to push the migrants back into the Rio Grande.
“[Pushing migrants] I don’t believe, it would be barbarity. It’s extreme, it’s inhuman, it’s extermination. I don’t believe it,” he said at a morning press conference.
Lopez Obrador said Texas aided in fomenting the “hatred of the migrant.”