3 Migrant Drownings New Flashpoint in Border Debate

Feds accuse Texas of refusing to allow them to try to save woman, two children. Texas denies it
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2024 12:45 PM CST
3 Migrant Drownings New Flashpoint in Border Debate
Texas Department of Public Safety officers work inside a fenced off Shelby Park, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas.   (Sam Owens /The San Antonio Express-News via AP)

The drownings of a migrant woman and two children trying to cross from Mexico into Texas on Friday night has become the latest flashpoint in the immigration debate between Gov. Greg Abbott and the Biden administration. However, both sides have different stories about how the drownings unfolded:

  • Feds: Border Patrol agents said they received a call from Mexican authorities about migrants in distress in the Rio Grande near a park in Eagle Pass, Texas, reports the New York Times. The agency says Texas Military Department agents "physically barred" them from entering Shelby Park to try to help.
  • Texas: The TMD says the migrants were already drowned by the time Border Patrol agents arrived, per the AP. It says no TMD security personnel observed any migrants in distress on the river and called reports that it prevented federal agents from saving them "wholly inaccurate." The US Department of Homeland Security disputes that, saying its agents were denied access before it was known the migrants had died. News outlets have been unable to confirm which side is correct. Mexican authorities recovered the bodies of the drowned woman and children.

  • The park: The spot where the migrants tried to enter Texas is at Shelby Park, which has been a "focal point" in the immigration crisis, per CNN. At one point, it saw up to 5,000 crossings a day, though the figure has dropped to 500 more recently. The park is owned by the city of Eagle Pass, but the state has assumed temporary control of it. "We are not allowing Border Patrol on that property anymore," Abbott said Friday, hours before the drownings took place.
  • Legal threat: Homeland Security demands access to the park for Border Patrol agents by the end of Wednesday or it will take legal action. "Border Patrol must have access to the border to enforce our laws," says White House spokesperson Allie Raffa, adding that "Governor Abbott's political stunts are cruel, inhumane, and dangerous." (It would be only the latest in a series of escalating legal fights over border policy, with the Supreme Court expected to weigh in eventually.)

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