Three bodies have been pulled from the Rio Grande along the Texas-Mexico border this week, including that of a 3-year-old boy, as state and border patrol officials erect dangerous obstacles to prevent migrant crossings that have reportedly neared record levels this month.
The youngest victim was pulled from the water near Eagle Pass on Wednesday by a Texas tactical marine unit. They’d received a report that the boy had been swept away in the current while attempting to cross with family around 3:30 p.m., the Texas Department of Public Safety said. The boy was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The recovery of the child’s body took place just north of a controversial floating marine barrier that immigrant advocates and both Mexican and U.S. officials say dangerously diverts migrants into parts of the river that are deeper and more treacherous.
Bodies have been found along the barrier since its installation in July.
DPS spokesperson Lt. Chris Olivarez, in a statement posted online, said the child’s death was “another senseless tragedy” stemming from what Olivarez called the federal government’s failure to discourage unlawful border crossings.
A second death was reported on Thursday morning. Just before 9 a.m., a body was found submerged a few hundred yards north of the barrier’s buoys, DPS said.
Fox News reporter Bill Melugin described the victim as a middle-aged man, sharing video of the body’s recovery on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. DPS referred further questions to the Maverick County Sheriff’s Office, which did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment Friday.
Migrants walk in the Rio Grande along a wall of concertina wire as they try to cross into the U.S. from Mexico on Friday in Eagle Pass, Texas.
A third death was reported Friday morning. The victim was described only as a male.
Video posted online by Julio Rosas, a writer for the media outlet Townhall, shows a man’s body floating among the buoys in the river. Eagle Pass fire chief Manuel Mello told HuffPost that the body floated into the buoys, and that they did not cause the man to drown. A mother and a 10-year-old boy died in the river a few weeks earlier, Mello said.
The bodies of multiple men, women and children have been pulled from the river, including several that have been found caught by the buoys.
Mexican officials have formally complained to the U.S. government about the buoys and have asked for their removal, arguing that they create safety risks, contravene treaties regarding the use of the river, and violate Mexico’s sovereignty. Migrant advocates have similarly expressed concerns about drowning risks.
A string of buoys installed in the Rio Grande have sparked controversy and tension between the United States and Mexico. Claims of human rights violations have reached Congress.
A U.S. judge recently ordered Texas to remove the buoys after the Biden administration sued the state over their use. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) immediately appealed the order, however, and a U.S. Appeals Court granted the state an emergency stay pending further judgment.
It’s not clear whether the buoys have directly increased the number of drowning deaths, as some have feared.
Regardless, Ricky Garza, border policy counsel for the Southern Border Communities Coalition in Texas, argues that these anti-migration tactics are intentionally dangerous and violate basic human rights.
I think at a really basic level, nobody deserves to be killed by the state for migrating.Ricky Garza, border policy counsel, Southern Border Communities Coalition
“Every law enforcement agency is obligated to respect the basic human rights of migrants. That is just something that is part of our international obligations, it’s part of international treaties,” he told HuffPost. “I think at a really basic level, nobody deserves to be killed by the state for migrating.”
The southwest border has seen a surge of crossings in recent years, in part due to instability in countries like Venezuela that have authoritarian governments.
The number of migrants apprehended by U.S. immigration agents along the Texas border soared to near-record levels this month, CBS News reported Thursday, citing unpublished federal figures. Border Patrol agents reportedly apprehended an average of 6,900 migrants daily during the first 20 days of September, a 60% increase from the daily average seen in July.
A migrant who crossed into the U.S. from Mexico is pulled under concertina wire along the Rio Grande on Thursday in Eagle Pass.
Abbott has responded to the surge by busing more than 40,000 migrants to Democratic-run cities and installing miles of razor wire and floating marine barriers.
Rather than installing physical dangers, Garza argues that limits on the daily number of migrants allowed at border checkpoints should be expanded so people can have a safe means of entry.
“Broadly, the U.S.’ international obligations say that anyone has the right to seek asylum if they are fleeing persecution, and that is not what’s being allowed to happen, because there is this metering that’s going on,” Garza said.
“That’s why you see people crossing between the ports in really dangerous situations that are really being made worse by our enforcement forces ― with razor wire, with barbed wire, with all of these troops along the river,” he said. “People should be afforded a safe option.”