EAGLE PASS – US Rep. Joaquin Castro led a Democratic delegation in a visit to Eagle Pass on Tuesday for a first-hand look at the buoys that were recently installed on River Grande River in Eagle Pass.
Castro was joined by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), and state Sen. Roland Gutierrez.
The San Antonio congressman and the delegates spoke with local authorities and community members as they assessed the impact of Operation Lone Star and the floating barrier on the Rio Grande.
For many who spoke at the press conference, the placing of the buoys has caused more problems.
Castro noted that despite a drop in border crossings, Gov. Greg Abbott’s ongoing “barbaric campaign of cruelty against migrants” has remained.
“Do you treat them as human beings or do you treat them as animals? Because right now Greg Abbott is treating these people like animals,” he said.
Castro said he believed Abbott’s persistence on the topic was merely a stunt to distract Texans from other issues affecting them.
“Greg Abbott’s No. 1 Boogeyman is the border and migrants,” Castro said. “And what he likes to do is scare Texans that there’s a bunch of people coming across the river coming here to harm you. That’s his play every time. And it’s a substitute for taking on the real issues that make a difference in people’s lives.”
Abbott had buoys deployed on the river over the summer in an effort to prevent border crossings.
The Justice Department has since sued the state, and the lawsuit asks a federal judge to force Texas to remove the 1,000-foot barrier.
The lawsuit states Texas installed the buoys without authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Abbott has defended the use of the barrier, saying the U.S. Constitution gives Texas sovereign authority to protect its borders.
At least one person was found dead and stuck on the south side of the barrier. DPS said it appears he died upstream and floated into the buoys, according to the Texas Tribune.
Garcia held back tears as she described what the images the buoys evoked.
“I have never seen anything like this in our own country,” Garcia said. “To see all these barriers that are set, it almost looks like they are trying to trap wild hogs … the cruelty of the barriers in the water is just so graphic.”
Jessie Fuentes, who owns a small business that operates on the Rio Grande, expressed his concern for the river and for the people.
“This is our governor doing this to our community, Fuentes said. “Despite the death of human beings and a beautiful ecosystem in our Rio Grande, he’s determined to prove a point.”
The deployment of the buoys comes two years on from the creation of Operation Lone Star, the state’s campaign to combat illegal immigration.