Greg Abbott's Rio Grande Border Policies Condemned as 'Definition of Evil'

Governor Greg Abbott's migration policies have been slammed as the "definition of evil" after a Texas state trooper claimed border guards had been ordered to push back migrants, including small children, into the Rio Grande, as well as denying them access to water. The allegations have been dismissed in part by the department, which insists there is no policy against handing water to migrants.

Democratic politicians have also hit out at the deployment of floating buoys in the Rio Grande, designed to impede illegal immigration, which one congress member said "are going to force people to drown."

Authorities across the U.S. are struggling to cope with a surge in unauthorized immigration, with law enforcement stopping a record 2.76 million migrants after they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in the 2022 fiscal year, according to Customs and Border Protection data. Immigration is likely to play a prominent role in the 2024 presidential election campaign, with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump vowing to end "automatic citizenship" for the children of undocumented migrants "on day one" if elected.

On Monday, the Houston Chronicle published an email from a Texas state trooper, sent to a superior, who said migrants had been pushed back into the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, causing one 4-year-old girl to pass out from heat exhaustion, and denied water.

Migrants attempt to cross the Rio Grande
Migrants wave as they walk near concertina wire in the water along the Rio Grande border with Mexico in Eagle Pass, Texas, on July 16, 2023. Reports of border guards being ordered to push migrants back into the river, and refuse them water, have sparked outrage online. ANNE CORDEIRO / AF/GETTY

The trooper wrote: "Due to the extreme heat, the order to not give people water needs to be immediately reversed as well...I believe we have stepped over a line into the inhumane."

In response Travis Considine, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said law enforcement hadn't been instructed to deny water to migrants.

The unverified claims caused fury on social media, with progressive social media activist Jack Cocchiaretta sharing a post on Twitter blaming Abbott, who he described as "the definition of evil," to his 348,000 followers.

Nessa Diosdado, a Texas-based "Gen-Z activist," called on the president to intervene. She said: "Migrants are human beings. What Greg Abbott is doing at the border with children and babies is not what this country stands for. He must be stopped. We need President Biden to step in."

There was anger at Abbott from Democratic lawmakers at the placement of buoys in the Rio Grande, in a bid to deter illegal migration.

Speaking to CNN, Texas Representative Joaquin Castro said: "What he [Abbott] intends to put out are drowning devices. Those things are going to force people to drown. Children, disabled people, mothers, and others."

Representative Veronica Escobar, who also represents the Democrats in the House, tweeted: "The buoys being deployed by Greg Abbott in the Rio Grande will not stop desperate people; they pose a danger to Border Patrol agents and put migrants at risk of drowning."

In a statement sent to the Houston Chronicle, Abbott's press secretary, Andrew Mahaleris, defended the governor's policies.

He said: "Texas is deploying every tool and strategy to deter and repel illegal crossings between ports of entry as President Biden's dangerous open border policies entice migrants from over 150 countries to risk their lives entering the country illegally.

"President Biden has unleashed a chaos on the border that's unsustainable, and we have a constitutional duty to respond to this unprecedented crisis."

In a statement sent to Newsweek,Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa and Maverick County Democratic Party Chair Juanita Martinez called for federal intervention in response to claims migrants had been denied water and pushed back into the Rio Grande.

They said: "Greg Abbott and his political cronies in the DPS [Texas Department of Public Safety] reached a new level of depravity earlier this summer with their floating buoys in the river, intended to deter asylum-seeking migrants with the threat of drowning rather than legal repercussions.

"But today's uncovering of the borderline torturous activity against migrants—including all but intentionally drowning babies—deserves a swift and thorough investigation by the federal government.

"In addition, with this state-sanctioned violence against migrants, it's time for federal authorities to assert their constitutional duty and shut down Greg Abbott's unconstitutional rogue 'law enforcement.'"

Newsweek has also reached out to Abbott's press office for comment via telephone and voicemail message.

In June, Abbott said Texas had "bused over 23,500 migrants to sanctuary cities," including Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles.

Update 7/18/23, 9:35 a.m. ET: This story has been updated with a statement from the Texas Democratic Party.

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