EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Texas lawmakers said they plan to ask the Department of Justice to look into reports that Texas troopers and National Guard members have been ordered to push migrant children back into the Rio Grande and deny asylum-seekers water even in extreme heat.
According to the Houston Chronicle, a verified email from a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper described his orders under Operation Lone Star and called them “inhumane.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in March 2020 launched Operation Lone Star, a border-security initiative that sent DPS troopers and Texas Army National Guard members to the border, where they have set up concertina wire to prevent migrants from entering the country. Most recently, the governor has deployed a string of large buoys to serve as a floating barrier in the middle of the river in Eagle Pass, Texas.
That’s where the DPS trooper said they witnessed a pregnant woman having a miscarriage and writhing in pain while caught in the wire; a 4-year-old girl passed out from heat exhaustion after she tried to go through it and was pushed back by Texas National Guard soldiers; and a father carrying his teenage son after he broke his leg trying to navigate the water around the wire, the Chronicle reported. The trooper also described the water barriers as razor wire-wrapped barrels.
In their email, which the Chronicle reported was sent to a supervisor, the trooper calls for rigorous policy changes to improve safety for migrants, including removing the barrels and revoking the directive on withholding water.
“Due to the extreme heat, the order to not give people water needs to be immediately reversed as well,” the trooper wrote, later adding: “I believe we have stepped over a line into the inhumane.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Abbott’s office issued a joint statement from Texas Border Czar Mike Banks, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steve McCraw, and Texas Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer in response to the reports.
“No orders or directions have been given under Operation Lone Star that would compromise the lives of those attempting to cross the border illegally,” the statement read. “The Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Military Department continue taking steps to monitor migrants in distress, provide appropriate medical attention when needed, and encourage them to use one of the 29 international bridges along the Texas-Mexico Border where they can safely and legally cross.”
The statement said migrants are encouraged to risk their lives and make this dangerous trek to enter our country illegally by what the Texas officials call “open border policies.”
“Texas is deploying every tool and strategy to deter and repel illegal crossings between ports of entry. The absence of these tools and strategies—including concertina wire that snags clothing—encourages migrants to make potentially life-threatening and illegal crossings. Through Operation Lone Star, Texas continues stepping up to respond to the unprecedented humanitarian crisis at our southern border,” the statement read.
On Tuesday, a group of Texas lawmakers held a news conference via Zoom to address the Houston Chronicle’s report and Abbott’s border actions.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson said she has asked the White House and officials with the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to investigate the allegations.
“This is incredibly horrific and inhumane,” said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas. “Abbott’s policies actually hurt people, cause harm and even death.”
Escobar noted that even the Trump administration, which took a historically strong stance against illegal immigration, rejected the buoy barrier.
She said the wires and buoys not only put migrants at risk but also the border agents who often engage in life-saving situations.
According to the Chronicle, DPS spokesman Travis Considine did not comment on all the contents of the trooper’s email but said there is no policy against giving water to migrants.
The lawmakers are asking Abbott to cease Operation Lone Star.