Days after a report surfaced indicating "inhumane" treatment by Texas border officials, the Department of Justice told Scripps News that it has sent a letter to the Texas governor and attorney general about its intent to "pursue legal action related to unlawful construction of a floating barrier in the Rio Grande River."
Texas border officials have strung miles of razor wire and built a wall of buoys in the river as part of a $4 billion effort from Gov. Greg Abbott called Operation Lone Star, through which Texas counties can deploy the National Guard to assist in border arrests and busing migrants to other cities.
In emails first obtained by Hearst Newspapers and reported by the Associated Press, trooper and medic Nicolas Wingate told his superiors at the Texas Department of Public Safety he witnessed what he called "inhumane" treatment in Maverick County.
Abbott released a statement defending the actions of the Department of Public Safety while claiming that there have been no changes in policy that would put migrants at risk.
"No orders or directions have been given under Operation Lone Star that would compromise the lives of those attempting to cross the border illegally," Abbott said in a statement. "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. With migrants from over 150 countries encouraged by open border policies to risk their lives and make this dangerous trek to enter our country illegally, Texas is deploying every tool and strategy to deter and repel illegal crossings between ports of entry.
"The absence of these tools and strategies—including concertina wire that snags clothing—encourages migrants to make potentially life-threatening and illegal crossings."
Abbott has called on the National Guard to provide aid.
"We have 24/7 coverage of our section of the border here," said 2nd Lt. Thomas Matchett. "What my guys are doing every day is detecting migrants. Right now, our directive is to deter and say, 'We need you to go back to Mexico; we can't let you in this area. We're not using any force or anything like that; it's very cordial. But our mission is to deter the migrants."
Data from Customs and Border Protectionindicates fewer encounters at the U.S. and Mexico border. In June, there were 144,571 apprehensions, the fewest CBP has made since February 2021.
The Biden administration implemented a phone application that gives migrants the opportunity to schedule a time to come to the border to seek asylum. The order largely prohibits those who enter Mexico from another country from coming to the U.S. to seek asylum without using the app.
CBP processed 38,000 people through the app at a point of entry in June, officials said.
The Biden administration’s policy of directing migrants to the app has drawn criticism from both sides. Immigration activists say the new rules make it too restrictive for migrants to apply for asylum. Republicans claim the Biden administration is not doing enough to secure the southern border.
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