Soldiers at the Texas border were ordered to push the children back into the Rio Grande River and failed to provide water to asylum seekers in extreme heat, according to an ann email dispatched by a Department of Public Safety patrolman and first reported by the Houston Chronicle.
The incidents have coincided with a push by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to intense border security efforts through its Operation Lone Star initiative.
The email, which was sent to a superior and shared by a confidential source, documented various situations the police officer had witnessed in Eagle Pass, Texas, where some of Abbott’s most aggressive efforts are being implemented.
In response to the email, Abbott’s office posted a joint declaration with other Texas officials, saying no orders or instructions were given to soldiers that endangered the lives of the migrants. “Texas is deploying all tools and strategies to deter and repel illegal crossings between ports of entry,” the statement said.
Abbott has accused federal officials of refusing to protect the border.
Texas state officials have also used miles of barbed wire to prevent migrants from entering the country, which has resulted in multiple deaths and injuries. The police email detailed an incident that allegedly occurred last month, where a 19-year-old pregnant woman had to be released from the wire. Police officers later determined that the woman was having a miscarriage.
Another account described how a 4-year-old girl passed out after experiencing heat exhaustion in temperatures that were “well above 100 degrees.” After trying to get through the wire, Texas National Guard soldiers pushed the girl “due to orders they were given,” the email said.
A spokesman for the Texas National Guard was contacted but did not respond to a request for comment.
The policeman also claimed to have treated a 15-year-old boy who suffered a broken leg after trying to navigate some of the water around the cable. The policeman said the cable was “arranged in a way that forced him into the river, where it is not safe to travel.”
The federal Border Patrol has issued internal warnings that the barbed wire prevents agents from reaching at-risk migrants and has increased the risk of drowning in the Rio Grande. The Hearst newspapers have reported.
Department of Public Safety spokesman Travis Considine did not comment directly on the information in the police email, but added that there is no policy preventing officials from providing water to migrants at the border.
DPS Director Steven McCraw said state troopers should warn migrants not to try to cross the barbed wire and should be directed to other ports of entry.
On June 25, the police officer wrote that officials encountered a group of 120 people, including babies and young children, who were camped out along a fence next to the river. The email said that the duty commanding officer ordered the soldiers to “push people back into the water to go to Mexico.”
When the officers disagreed with the orders, they received another order instructing the migrants to go to Mexico and get into their vehicles and leave the area, the email said.
Democratic lawmakers in Texas were quick to condemn the actions reported by the Houston Chronicle.
“Greg Abbott’s actions at the border are inhumane, evil, and out of step with Texas values, and have to do with politics.” tweeted Rep. Greg Casar on Tuesday. “Abbott wants his name to make headlines, even if it means a child’s name appears in obituaries.”