A woman and two children drowned in the Rio Grande on Friday while trying to cross into the United States near an area of the southern border where Texas National Guard soldiers are stationed.Federal Border Patrol agents from processing and rescuing immigrants.
Federal officials and a Texas congressman said the National Guard stopped by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott from allowing Border Patrol agents to try to rescue the migrants. Earlier this week, Texas National Guard soldiers abruptly seized control of a public park in Eagle Pass, which the Border Patrol has used to detain migrants, marking the latest escalation in the escalating political and legal feud between Abbott and President Biden over US border policy.
On Friday night, Border Patrol agents identified six migrants in distress near a park on the Rio Grande known as Shelby Park, Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar said.Saturday. Federal agents, Cuellar added, tried unsuccessfully to contact Texas state officials about the emergency by phone. Later, when Border Patrol agents asked to be allowed into the park to help the migrants, they were denied entry, Gullar said.
“Texas military personnel said they would not grant access to migrants — even in an emergency — and that they would send a soldier to investigate the situation,” Cuellar said, adding that Mexican officials recovered three bodies on Saturday.
“It's a tragedy and the state has to take responsibility,” he said.
A US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press, said Cuellar's description of events was accurate. In a statement on Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that Texas authorities blocked efforts by Border Patrol agents to rescue the migrants on Friday.
“Unfortunately, a woman and two children drowned last night in the Shelby Park area of Eagle Pass, which was mandated by the state of Texas earlier this week,” the department said. “Responding to a distress call from the Mexican government, Border Patrol agents were physically blocked from entering the area by Texas officials.”
White House spokesman Angelo Fernandez Hernandez said the Texas soldiers blocked U.S. Border Patrol agents as they tried to provide emergency aid to the migrants.
“As we continue to gather the facts about the circumstances of these tragic deaths, one thing is clear: Governor Abbott's political stunt is brutal, inhumane and dangerous,” Fernandez Hernandez added.
The Texas Department of the Army, which oversees the state National Guard, confirmed Friday night that the Border Patrol had been contacted “in reference to an immigrant distress situation.” It said one of its units “searched the river intensively with flashlights and night vision goggles” but found no migrants in distress or bodies.
State National Guardsmen ended their search after finding what the Texas Department of Defense said Mexican authorities were “responding to an incident along the Mexico River.” The Border Patrol said the Mexican authorities did not need help, according to the department.
“(The Texas Department of the Army) maintains water rescue equipment and is actively working with local EMS to assist migrants in need of medical care,” the department said in a statement late Saturday.
The Texas National Guard took control of Shelby Park late Wednesday in what it said was a move designed to stop immigrants from crossing illegally. The drastic measure alerted local officials in Eagle Pass, who said they did not approve of it, as well as the federal government's actions on Thursday night in the Texas Supreme Court.
Texas used armed soldiers, vehicles and fences to block border patrol agents and at least one federal National Guard soldier from entering about 2.5 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, federal officials said. One of the concerns raised by federal officials was that Texas' actions would prevent Texas from helping immigrants in distress.
On Saturday, DHS called on Texas officials to relent.
“Texas' blatant disregard for federal authority over immigration poses serious risks,” the department said. “The State of Texas must stop the US Border Patrol from interfering with US law enforcement.”