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Mother and Children Drown in Rio Grande as Texas Blocks Agents From Aiding Them

“The Texas governor’s policies are cruel, dangerous, and inhumane," said a spokesperson for Homeland Security.

A child's shoe hangs caught in razor wire atop the bank of the Rio Grande on January 9, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Last Friday, a woman and her two children tragically drowned while attempting to cross the Rio Grande into Eagle Pass, Texas. Federal agents were barred by Texas officials from accessing the river to help the drowning family. The bodies of the migrants were recovered by Mexican authorities the next day.

“This is a tragedy, and the state bears responsibility,” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said on social media.

A spokesperson for the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told CNN in a statement Saturday that federal agents were alerted to the emergency by the Mexican government and attempted to provide aid.

“In responding to a distress call from the Mexican government, Border Patrol agents were physically barred by Texas officials from entering the area,” the DHS spokesperson said. “The Texas governor’s policies are cruel, dangerous, and inhumane, and Texas’s blatant disregard for federal authority over immigration poses grave risks.”

The U.S.-Mexico border is the world’s deadliest migration land route, in part because of Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s deadly anti-immigrant policies. According to a report by the International Organization for Migration, there were 686 deaths and disappearances of migrants at the US-Mexico border in 2022, nearly half of all migrant deaths documented across the Americas that year.

“These alarming figures are a stark reminder of the need for decisive action by States,” Michele Klein Solomon, IOM Regional Director for Central and North America and the Caribbean, said in a statement. “Ultimately, what is needed is for countries to act on the data to ensure safe, regular migration routes are accessible.”

Multiple bodies have been found stuck to barbed-wire buoys installed by the Abbott administration to make the border crossing more dangerous for migrants. The buoys create a barrier approximately 1,000 feet in length and are anchored to the river bottom with submerged nets to deter individuals from swimming beneath them. The buoys also rotate so that people cannot climb over them.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) sued Texas in July over Abbott’s refusal to remove the buoys. In December, an Appeals Court ruled with the DOJ, finding that the buoys violated federal law. Abbot has vowed to “seek an immediate rehearing by the entire court.”

In addition to the barbed wire buoys, in July it was reported that Texas state troopers assigned to Abbott’s border militarization initiative were ordered to push migrant children into the Rio Grande and deny water to asylum seekers in defiance of international human rights law.

“Gov. Abbott’s grandstanding on the border will do nothing to make us safer or more economically secure, but that isn’t the point. Abbott surely knows that these measures are unconstitutional and will be overturned,” Alex S. Vitale, a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, wrote for Truthout. “This whole endeavor is merely a theater of cruelty designed to accelerate the politics of resentment against the most vulnerable among us so that we overlook those really responsible for our economic and social insecurity: the wealthy elites funding Abbott and the rest of the extreme right.”

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) has demanded a federal investigation and potential criminal charges following the recent deaths of the mother and her two children in the Rio Grande.

“LULAC is deeply saddened by the news of the death of three refugees who lost their lives due in large part to failings in our country’s border patrol policies and Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s continued lack of compassion for humanitarian causes,” LULAC National President Domingo Garcia said in a statement.

Garcia stated that LULAC is presently engaged in discussions with Representative Cuellar and other elected officials concerning an inquiry into the incident. Additionally, LULAC has dispatched a letter to the U.S. Attorney for Eagle Pass, urging an investigation into potential charges of murder, criminally negligent homicide and child endangerment against those implicated.

“On this weekend, I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ LULAC will continue to stand on the side of justice and fight for the civil rights of those unrepresented, voiceless, and invisible,” Garcia said.

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