Body found stuck in buoys Texas installed in the Rio Grande

A group of migrants walks around a string of buoys on July 14. The buoys were deployed to prevent migrants from swimming across the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass. (Jordan Vonderhaar For The Texas Tribune, Jordan Vonderhaar For The Texas Tribune)

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An unidentified body was found stuck in the buoys that Texas installed last month in the Rio Grande in between Eagle Pass and the Mexican city of Piedras Negras, Mexican and Texas authorities said.

Mexico’s foreign affairs office said in a news release on Wednesday that Texas troopers alerted the Mexican consulate at about 2:30 p.m. that a body was found on the south side of the buoys.

The Mexican government has not yet determined the identity or nationality of the person. The Mexico foreign affairs office said the cause of death has not been determined.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said in a statement Thursday that as of now, “preliminary information suggests this individual drowned upstream from the marine barrier and floated into the buoys.”

“There are personnel posted at the marine barrier at all times in case any migrants try to cross,” he added.

The Dallas Morning News reported that another body was found near the buoys. They quoted a shelter worker in Piedras Negras saying the body was that of an Honduran boy. The newspaper later updated its story after Mexico's foreign ministry reported that the victim's mother said her son was 20.

The Mexican government criticized Texas, saying that the placement of the buoys is “a violation of our sovereignty.”

“We express our concern about the impact on the human rights and personal safety of migrants that these state policies will have, which run counter to the close collaboration between our country and the federal government of the United States,” the news release said.

A spokesperson for Gov. Greg Abbott said the "Mexican government is flat-out wrong." The first reported body had floated into the buoys and the second body "was found miles upstream from the marine barriers," said Andrew Mahaleris, a spokesperson for Abbott.

"Also, DPS monitors the barriers for anyone attempting to cross and has not observed anyone attempting to cross since they were installed," Mahaleris said.

The area has lately become a popular crossing point for migrants, many of them Venezuelan. That part of the river is shallow enough for migrants to cross walking, but it’s not uncommon for people to be washed away by the deceiving river, where currents can make migrants slip if they’re not prepared.

The U.S. Department of Justice recently filed a lawsuit against Texas saying the placement of the buoys and other deterrent obstacles like concertina wire on the riverbank is illegal and that the state needed permission from the federal government to do so.

The buoys are orange spheres with a sharp metal between them. The buoys, which extend 1,000 feet along the river, have a mesh net underneath them. But migrants have simply been walking around the buoys and the water is too shallow for someone to swim underneath them.

Abbott has defended his policies, saying Texas has the right to protect its borders.

Erin Heeter, a spokesperson for the Department Of Homeland Security said in a statement Thursday that "This report is heartbreaking and the circumstances should be thoroughly investigated. It is critical that we manage our border in a safe and humane way that respects the dignity of every human being and keeps our communities safe. We can both enforce our laws and treat human beings with dignity."

During a recent Eagle Pass city council meeting, Mayor Rolando Salinas said he wished both the state and federal governments offered the region more solutions and worked directly with Eagle Pass.

“I wish the President would be a little more vocal on this issue. Help us out. I feel that we're abandoned here to kind of ‘Hey, you're doing this on your own,’” Salinas said, adding that supporters of Abbott’s policies need to know that, “The city of Eagle Pass didn’t authorize, for example, the buoys. We didn't say, ‘Oh, yes, please bring them in.’ These are actions that are taken also without consulting the city or consulting myself.”

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