Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star has come under renewed scrutiny this week following a Houston Chronicle report about migrants, including children, being trapped in razor wire and denied water despite the brutal heat wave engulfing the area. Democrats at the state and federal level have accused Abbott’s initiative designed to curb border crossings of failing to coordinate with federal authorities and obstructing Border Patrol authorities from helping migrants.
‘I believe we have stepped over a line’
On Monday, the Houston Chronicle published a story that said troops stationed at the Rio Grande border crossing were following orders that included pushing children and nursing babies into the river while denying migrants water in extreme heat. The paper later published the full report from a paramedic and trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) detailing the treatment of some of the asylum seekers, including a pregnant woman who was suffering a miscarriage while caught in the razor wire, some of which has been deployed as “traps,” with the wire wrapped around barrels floating in low visibility portions of the river.
In an email, DPS Director Steven McCraw called for an audit to see if anything could be done to reduce the risk to migrants, saying troopers should warn against crossing at the wire and redirect them to ports of entry.
In a separate email, McCraw wrote, “The purpose of the wire is to deter smuggling between the ports of entry and not to injure migrants. The smugglers care not if the migrants are injured, but we do, and we must take all necessary measures to mitigate the risk to them including injuries from trying to cross over the concertina wire, drownings and dehydration.”
Earlier that day, the Department of Justice said it was assessing the situation at the border, with a spokesperson saying the department was “aware of the troubling reports” and was working with the Department of Homeland Security as well as other relevant agencies.
Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March 2021 and has now made related disaster declarations for 48 counties along the border, giving authorities special power in those areas to operate on private property. Much of the efforts have focused on the area of Eagle Pass, located along the Rio Grande Valley about 140 miles southwest of San Antonio.
In June, Abbott announced that a thousand feet of floating buoys would be set up near Eagle Pass, anchored to the riverbed with netting underneath. The devices have raised concerns about the potential for drowning migrants as well as affecting the environment in the area by trapping fish and altering the flow of the river in a way that damages habitats and downstream bridges and dams. Mexico sent a diplomatic note stating its concerns regarding the barriers, saying that they violate a treaty that says the river needs to flow unobstructed. An Eagle Pass business owner has sued the state, telling reporters, “What are you guys doing? You have no authority. You’re overreaching, you’re overstepping it.”