The Horrific Results Hit New Lows – And That’s the Point
Troopers at the southern border under Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star scheme have allegedly “been ordered to push small children and nursing babies back into the Rio Grande, and have been told not to give water to asylum seekers even in extreme heat,” Houston Chronicle reports. Some troops have reportedly expressed concerns about the orders to their superiors, showing more humanity, decency and understanding of what it means to be an American than Texas’ governor.
In one horrific incident detailed in an internal email sent by a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) trooper, troopers pushed a four-year-old girl back into Mexico amid the searing heat hitting the region. The child subsequently “passed out from exhaustion.” Texas has also installed a deadly system of buoys and razor wiring that increases the likelihood of drowning, by “forcing migrants into deeper stretches of the river,” the report said. One migrant woman miscarried after being caught in the wire, while a teen migrant broke his leg trying to get around the wiring.
The report further details what appears to have been an inhumane order to deprive thirsty migrants of drinking water. Keep in mind a number of Texans have died from heat-related illnesses in recent weeks, and many migrants have likely journeyed significant distances, adding to the stress on their bodies. “‘Due to the extreme heat, the order to not give people water needs to be immediately reversed as well,’ the trooper wrote, later adding: ‘I believe we have stepped over a line into the inhumane,’” the report said.
But Abbott stepped over that line a long time ago. Republicans as part of their downward trajectory on immigration have proposed or implemented cruel, dangerous, and dehumanizing policies attacking migrants, including those seeking asylum. Chief among them has been the Texas governor, who has unlawfully detained Black and Latino migrants under Operation Lone Star, dumped migrant children and parents in the bitter cold on Christmas Eve, and attacked families like these using dangerous white nationalist “invasion” rhetoric.
But this new Houston Chronicle report is shocking even in this current era of GOP nativism. Abbott’s latest border tactics received swift condemnation from state organizations, lawmakers, and the White House.
“There is no bottom to Gov. Abbott’s inhumane policies at the border,” said La Unión del Pueblo Entero’s Dani Marrero Hi. “The reports are horrific— children passing out, nursing babies getting forcefully pushed into the river, denying water to people during a record-setting summer, and a woman who suffered a miscarriage while painfully caught in barbed wire placed by troops.” Marrero Hi continues: “But Gov. Abbott’s rogue extremist agenda goes against the values of South Texans. Abbott’s policies do not care about human life, and the latest reports are a confirmation of what human rights groups have raised the alarm for years now.”
“These reports are disturbing on their face, but also because they are the natural consequence of Abbott’s recent actions in Texas,” said LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s Jorge Renaud and Priscilla Lugo. “Operation Lone Star has been in full effect in Texas for over two years and the state has continued to deprive migrants of their right to seek asylum and enter the state. These policies will continue to take the lives of migrants seeking a better life. If the state is truly looking to deter migration, it would push for policies and increased capacity that would allow migrants to present themselves at ports of entry. This treatment and practice of criminalizing migration by the State of Texas MUST end.”
“They left defenseless kids to die in Uvalde,” tweeted State Senator Roland Gutierrez. “It’s not hard to believe they’d send defenseless children at the border to their death. It’s not about security, it’s about cruelty.” Rep. Veronica Escobar tweeted that she was appalled by the report. “What have we become?” she asked. “Our treatment of migrants and asylum seekers is shameful and embarrassing.” Rep. Joaquin Castro called it an “absolutely monstrous, inhumane policy.” He noted that he shared the article with Secretary of State Antony Blinken during an event Monday night and urged an intervention by the Biden administration, including removing “the death traps Abbott has installed for the sake of human rights.”
“If true, this is atrocious, barbaric, and downright wrong,” tweeted White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday. “It would also not be surprising coming from a Governor who abandoned migrant children on the side of the road in below freezing temperatures on Christmas Eve.”
But it’s important to remember that Abbott isn’t carrying out this cruelty all alone. We previously noted that at least fourteen states are using taxpayer money to support Abbott’s war against desperate women, men and children seeking asylum.
Unsurprisingly, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “has assigned the most – 1,100 people, including 500 national guard and others such as law enforcement officers, a group about 10 times larger than the anti-immigration governor sent in 2021,” The Guardian reported. Like Florida, Virginia is nowhere near the southern border, yet Gov. Glenn Youngkin recently announced a $3.1 million border stunt deployment of 100 National Guard soldiers to the region. Abbott has spent $4 billion in taxpayer funds on the Operation Lone Star stunt since last October, and counting. Abbott is also under investigation by the Treasury Department watchdog for his very questionable use of federal coronavirus money to fund his border cruelty.
“Gov. Abbott has already expanded his war on immigrants, people of color and border residents to the state’s waterways,” said the Immigrant Legal Resource Center’s Carolina Canizales. “If he is left unchecked, his example will no doubt empower other hateful governors to employ similar policies. Florida has already enacted several hateful laws.” In a statement received by America’s Voice, Marisa Limón Garza of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center said Abbott “seems obsessed with hurting migrant children … Let’s be clear: cruelty, even if inflicted boundlessly, won’t deter migration.” Texas Civil Rights Project similarly said that cruelty “does not and will not stop migration, but it will cost human lives.”
“These harmful actions are all part of Gov. Abbott’s intentional attempt to take away dignity and humanity from people who are moving to the U.S. in search of opportunity,” United We Dream’s Juan Jose Martinez-Guevera said in a statement received by America’s Voice. “They are the realization of years of dangerous, dehumanizing, anti-immigrant rhetoric. The pregnant woman, teenage boy, and group of small children and babies, all referenced in the article, have the right to move without violence inflicted upon them.” The organization is among groups urging for a probe.
It was totally predictable that when elected officials spent years demonizing children and families as “invaders,” pushing kids back into danger or denying them a sip of water would become an apparent policy implemented as casually as paid leave or any other workplace rule. But Greg Abbott also knows exactly what he’s doing. Following blowback over an anti-immigrant fundraising letter sent out just one day before the white nationalist attack on El Paso in 2019, Abbott issued an apology of sorts. But it was a short-lived half-apology.
“He escalated his use of white nationalist ‘invasion’ rhetoric even after the El Paso shooter’s manifesto almost exactly four years ago made clear the dangers of such conspiracies,” said Mario Carrillo, Campaigns Manager for America’s Voice.
Abbott’s actions “demonstrate how today’s Republican Party is unserious – and worse, utterly inhumane – when it comes to addressing our challenges at our Southern Border,” said New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez. “If they were remotely committed to solving this issue, they would work with Democrats to build a more inclusive, humane, and orderly immigration system. Instead, they are playing political games with the lives of vulnerable people, many of them women and children fleeing violence and persecution.”
After years where chaos and cruelty have been the point of the GOP’s immigration and border policies, the evolution to a policy of outright state violence isn’t too surprising but it is still shocking. And we know exactly where this will continue to lead. Abbott and many other Republicans echo versions of the language of the El Paso mass murderer on a regular basis. The only question remains where will it stop? Unfortunately, Abbott doesn’t seem to care.