Texas With It’s New Border Tactics Are Proving Lethal For Migrants
A “hold-the-line” operation has created tensions with federal agents who warn it could lead to more drownings. Officers ordered to carry out the measures are raising alarms.
Texas officials have recently embarked on what they have called a “hold-the-line” operation, fortifying the banks of the Rio Grande with concertina wire, denying water to some migrants and shouting at others to return to Mexico.Credit…Go Nakamura for The New York Times
For more than two years, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has pursued an increasingly aggressive approach to the border, sending thousands of National Guard troops and police officers to patrol the Rio Grande and testing the legal limits of state action on immigration.
But in recent weeks, Texas law enforcement officials have taken those tactics much further, embarking on what the state has called a “hold-the-line” operation, according to interviews with state officials and documents reviewed by The New York Times. They have fortified the riverbanks with additional concertina wire, denied water to some migrants, shouted at others to return to Mexico and, in some cases, deliberately failed to alert federal Border Patrol agents who might assist arriving groups in coming ashore and making asylum claims, the review found.
The increasingly brutal, go-it-alone approach has alarmed people inside the U.S. Border Patrol and the Texas Department of Public Safety, the agency chiefly responsible for pursuing the governor’s border policies. Several Texas officers have lodged internal complaints and voiced opposition.
The reality of those tactics in one area of the border, around the small city of Eagle Pass, was detailed in an email by one state police medic, who described exhausted migrants being cut up by razor wire, a teenager breaking his leg to escape the barriers and officers being directed to withhold water from migrants struggling in the perilous heat. The actions described in the email drew broad condemnation from Texas Democrats in Congress and from the White House after the email was reported by The Houston Chronicle.
“They kept yelling at us, ‘Go back, go back!’” said Reyna Gloria Dominguez, 42, who arrived in Eagle Pass, Texas, from Honduras in a wheelchair. “We said, ‘We can’t.’ My son told them, ‘She needs help. She’s hurt.’”Credit…Go Nakamura for The New York Times
But the objections within the Texas Department of Public Safety extended far beyond a single medic: At least three other officers working around Eagle Pass, a main arrival point for migrants who are crossing illegally, have expressed their outrage and misgivings to higher-ups about the actions they have seen, according to internal correspondence and interviews with state officials briefed on the border response.
“They kept yelling at us, ‘Go back, go back!’” said Reyna Gloria Dominguez, 42, who arrived in Eagle Pass from Honduras in a wheelchair. “We said, ‘We can’t.’ My son told them, ‘She needs help. She’s hurt.’”
Similar scenes have been playing out elsewhere along the border, including in the Texas city of Brownsville, near the mouth of the Rio Grande, where state police officers have been standing guard at crossing points behind two layers of concertina wire.