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Three Deaths in Rio Grande Spotlight Continued Dangers of Gov. Abbott’s Dangerous Dehumanization of Immigrants

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Washington, DC Last week, we highlighted the dangerous escalation of Texas’s anti-immigrant push under Gov. Greg Abbott, after the Governor stated, the “‘only thing we’re not doing is shooting people’ crossing the border because ‘the Biden Administration would charge us with murder’” and after Texas National Guard troops seized control of section of the border from the federal government and blocked Border Patrol agents access to the border and the Rio Grande.. 

Mario Carrillo, Texas-based Campaigns Manager at America’s Voice stated, Gov. Abbott and Texas’ anti-immigrant push was “spiraling in dangerous new directions,” “fostering a dangerous climate,” and “encouraging more chaos through political stunts that treat immigrants like pawns while undermining efforts to provide comfort and safety to people fleeing danger.”

Unfortunately, this assessment proved prophetic later on Friday with the deaths of a woman and two children in the Rio Grande. As CBS News highlighted:

“A woman and two children drowned in the Rio Grande on Friday while trying to enter the U.S. near a section of the southern border where Texas National Guard soldiers have prevented federal Border Patrol agents from processing and rescuing migrants. Federal officials and a Texas congressman said National Guard soldiers deployed by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott did not allow Border Patrol agents to attempt to rescue the migrants.  

…In a filing before the Supreme Court late Monday, the Justice Department said Border Patrol was notified by Mexican officials that the three drownings had already occurred when it asked Texas officials for permission to enter the area. Border Patrol was seeking to render aid to other migrants who were in distress. Texas has not denied blocking Border Patrol from entering the park on Friday. ‘It is impossible to say what might have happened if Border Patrol had had its former access to the area — including through its surveillance trucks that assisted in monitoring the area,’ the Justice Department said Monday. ‘At the very least, however, Border Patrol would have had the opportunity to take any available steps to fulfill its responsibilities and assist its counterparts in the Mexican government with undertaking the rescue mission. Texas made that impossible.'”

Meanwhile, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker called on Abbott to stop sending migrants to his state because of the frigid, life-threatening weather. As the Chicago Sun-Times reported:

“Pritzker on Friday begged Abbott in a letter to show some mercy for the migrants sent to Chicago on planes and buses and dressed for warmer climates as the city and state scramble to find more shelters.

Pritzker said in the letter: ‘Please, while winter is threatening vulnerable people’s lives, suspend your transports and do not send more people to our state.’

On Friday, a spokesperson for Abbott said Pritzker’s request for a pause would not be granted. Pursuing the matter, over the weekend Pritzker personally paid for ads appealing to Abbott in five Texas newspapers: the Houston Chronicle; Dallas Morning News; Fort Worth Star-Telegram; San Antonio Express News and the Austin American-Statesman.

Asked at the news conference if he had heard from Abbott, Pritzker said, his ‘response was he rejects my call for a pause and that he will continue to send people even with this weather, even if it is dangerous for the migrants who arrive.’”

According to Mario Carrillo, Texas-based Campaigns Manager at America’s Voice: 

“We’ve seen time and time again how the dehumanization of immigrants and policies and rhetoric that fosters an anti-immigrant climate creates real world dangers – from violence targeted at immigrants to tragedies that were preventable. After people have drowned, been injured and been targeted for violence in Texas, we shouldn’t become desensitized to how the state is treating our fellow human beings. Observers with a conscience, whether Republican or Democrat, or in Texas or anywhere else should be able to view these deaths as tragic and preventable and a call to action to say ‘enough’ with the dehumanization of migrants and politicized stunts that get people killed.”