WASHINGTON – Allegations of mistreatment of migrants, including small children, by DPS troopers and Texas National Guard soldiers is “horrific” and “barbaric,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio said.
Castro and other members of a Texas Democratic congressional delegation held a news conference Tuesday in Washington to address Hearst Newspapers’ reports of a state trooper’s claims that superiors ordered officers at the border in Eagle Pass to push migrants back into the Rio Grande River and deny them water.
“(Gov.) Greg Abbott set death traps in the Rio Grande and has now issued barbaric orders to state troopers that endanger people’s lives. He needs to stop immediately,” Castro said to reporters. “We are asking for Greg Abbott to cease Operation Lone Star until these claims can be fully investigated.”
Castro added that President Biden “also needs to speak up,” and his administration needs to take action to stop Abbott’s directives.
Abbott’s office on Tuesday afternoon issued a joint statement from Texas Border Czar Mike Banks, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, and Texas Adjutant General Major General Thomas Suelzer regarding the allegations.
“No orders or directions have been given under Operation Lone Star that would compromise the lives of those attempting to cross the border illegally. The Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Military Department continue taking steps to monitor migrants in distress, provide appropriate medical attention when needed, and encourage them to use one of the 29 international bridges along the Texas-Mexico Border where they can safely and legally cross,” the statement said. “All personnel assigned to Operation Lone Star are prepared to detect and respond to any individuals who may need water or medical attention.”
Travis Considine, a DPS spokesperson, said in an email that the Office of the Inspector General, which investigates claims of misconduct by state employees, “is investigating the allegations made in the email in question.”
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) said while the state needs to have border security, he feels Abbott “is going solo on this. Not coordinating with Border Patrol, not coordinating with anybody. Just doing everything solo.”
Abbott recently ordered the installation of huge, orange buoys on the Rio Grande River in Del Rio to deter migrants from crossing into the U.S. Migrant advocates voiced concerns about drowning risks, and environmentalists questioned the impact on the river.
Before that, coils of razor wire were also installed on the river as a crossing deterrent.
Abbott’s office said these tactics and others under Operation Lone Star will continue until the Biden Administration addresses the border crisis.
Editor’s note: The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.