A woman and two children drowned Friday night in the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas, after U.S. border agents were prevented from responding, federal officials said Saturday.
A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that US Border Patrol agents were alerted by the Mexican government about the migrant crisis, but were unable to enter the area from the US side after Texas National Guard soldiers were ordered by the Texas governor. Greg Abbott prevented them from doing so.
“In response to an emergency call from the Mexican government, Border Patrol agents were physically prevented from entering the area by Texas officials,” the spokesperson said.
There were deaths US Representative Henry Cuellar emphasized on SaturdayD-Texas said the dead were part of a group of six migrants who got into trouble on the river Friday night.
Mexican officials recovered the bodies of three of the migrants on Saturday, Cuellar said in a statement. Identities and exact ages were not available.
“Border Patrol attempted to contact the Texas Military Department, Texas National Guard and DPS Command by phone to relay information, but was unsuccessful,” Cuellar said.
He continued: “Border patrol agents then made physical contact with the Texas Military Department and the Texas National Guard at the Shelby Park Entrance Gate and verbally relayed the information. However, the Texas Military Department soldiers said they would not allow migrants to enter — even in an emergency — and said they would send a soldier to investigate the situation.”
In a statement, the Texas Military Department disputed that narrative, saying that its personnel were alerted to the disaster report but could not find any migrants in need of assistance in the river, and were later alerted to an incident nearby on the Mexican side of the river. , it did not need their help.
The department contacted the Border Patrol on Friday night, and the agency said Mexican authorities did not need help from the Texas department.
“TMD security personnel have never observed migrants in distress along the river, and TMD has not turned back any illegal immigrants from the United States during this time,” he said.
Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Texas Department of Homeland Security referred such inquiries to the Texas Military Department, which said it was not involved in Friday night’s incident.
Eagle Pass Mayor Rolando Salinas Jr. said at a press conference Thursday that he received a phone call from the Texas Department of Public Safety the day before, informing him. the state was placing Shelby Park under emergency controlIt is in the area along the river where the three migrants are facing difficulties.
An official with the Texas Department of Defense confirmed the seizure, Salinas said. The department leads the Texas National Guard.
The move comes amid an ongoing court battle between the Department of Homeland Security and Texas over access to the border at Eagle Pass, which DHS says is surrounded by state-strung concertina wire. In December, a lower court ruled in favor of Texas, barring federal agents from removing the barriers.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s latest filing with the Supreme Court this week renews its request to block the state from barring federal agents from the area.
“Normal access to the border through Border Patrol points of entry at the federal border fence is similarly controlled by the Texas National Guard by installing its own gates and deploying armed personnel at those points to control access,” he said.
The petition continued, “And the Texas National Guard has also prevented the Border Patrol from using an access route across the pre-existing state border barrier by deploying a military Humvee there.”
White House spokesman Angelo Fernandez Hernandez told Reuters on Friday that the state’s efforts to block Border Patrol agents were essentially a form of political theater.
“Governor Abbott continues his extreme political actions that not only demonize and dehumanize people, but make it harder and more dangerous for the Border Patrol to do their jobs,” he said.
The takeover of the park appeared to be part of Abbott’s efforts highlight migrant passages and embarrasses the Biden administration for what he and other top Republicans have characterized as an open-border policy. Abbott has been sending migrants to cities led by elected Democrats on planes promising to care for them or otherwise provide shelter.
At a press conference on Friday, Abbott said the seizure of Eagle Pass was legal and necessary to prevent border crossings to “maintain operational control.”
He was the governor was criticized for his remarks During a Jan. 5 radio appearance, he said Texas is doing everything short of killing migrants to stop illegal crossings.
“The only thing we don’t do is we don’t shoot people crossing the border, because of course the Biden administration would charge us with murder,” he said.
On Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security criticized Abbott’s policy as outside of everyday politics.
“The Texas governor’s policies are cruel, dangerous and inhumane, and Texas’ flagrant disregard for federal immigration authority poses serious risks,” he said. “The State of Texas must stop interfering with the US Border Patrol’s enforcement of US law.”
A CPB spokesperson echoed similar sentiments Saturday: “We are saddened by the tragic drowning of migrants at Eagle Crossing. We are deeply concerned about actions that prevent the US Border Patrol from carrying out its core missions of apprehending people entering the United States illegally and providing humanitarian assistance to those in need. answer.”