Body Found Tangled in Texas Floating Border Barrier

Body Found Tangled in Texas Floating Border Barrier
People rest on an island while attempting to cross the Rio Grande river into the United States, in Eagle Pass, Texas, on July 18, 2023. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

A body has been found tangled up in the series of buoys that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) had installed along the Rio Grande as a floating barrier to prevent illegal border crossings by water.

On Wednesday, Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Texas DPS officials had notified Mexican authorities that they had recovered a lifeless body around the southern end of the string of buoys. The identity of the deceased person is unclear, and Mexican officials stated they did not know the cause of death or nationality of the body that was recovered.

The timing of this incident comes about as the Mexican government has called on President Joe Biden’s administration to force the removal of the floating border barrier. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has indicated he will fight to keep the barrier in place despite pressure from the Mexican side and the Democratic administration.

“We reiterate the position of the Government of Mexico that the placement of chained buoys by Texas authorities is a violation of our sovereignty,” the Mexican Foreign Ministry said following the Wednesday incident. “We express our concern about the impact on the human rights and personal safety of migrants of these state policies, which run counter to the close collaboration between our country and the United States federal government.”

DPS officials insisted the body had been spotted floating down the river before it ever became entangled with the floating barrier.

“Preliminary information suggests this individual drowned upstream from the marine barrier and floated into the buoys,” Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw said in an emailed statement to NTD News.

Mr. McCraw also said DPS keeps personnel posted along the river and near the buoys “in case any migrants try to cross.”

Texas DPS Lt. Chris Olivarez cast further doubt on the idea that the floating barrier caused the drowning, stating the water in the area the body was found is between knee and waist-deep.

“There’s no way the body would have drowned there. … There’s nothing in the buoy — no objects, no sharp objects, no wire, no hook,” Mr. Olivarez told the Washington Examiner.

Some press reports had indicated a second body was recovered on Wednesday, though DPS had no knowledge of the second incident.

“Mexican authorities may have found a different (second) body upriver. DPS did not, so we can’t confirm,” the agency said.

Operation Lone Star

The floating barrier is just one component of Operation Lone Star, an effort by Mr. Abbott’s administration to prevent illegal border crossings between Mexico and Texas. Mr. Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in the Spring of 2021, citing a “crisis at our southern border” exacerbated by “Biden Administration policies that refuse to secure the border and invite illegal immigration.”

The Operation Lone Star efforts have also seen state police and National Guard troops manning sections of the Texas border, deploying barbed wire, and physically turning back people attempting to cross the Rio Grande. Mr. Abbott has invited other Republican governors to assist with Operation Lone Star and several have deployed state police and National Guard troops to the Texas border to help block off sections of the Rio Grande, which separates Texas from Mexico.

Earlier this week, Republican Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen announced 60 Nebraska National Guard troops would deploy to Texas.

Biden Admin Suing Abbott

Last week, the Biden administration filed a federal lawsuit (pdf), seeking to stop efforts to expand the floating border barrier and compel the Abbott administration to disassemble the section it has constructed thus far. The lawsuit alleges the barrier violates the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899 because it obstructs a navigable waterway.

The floating barrier is now estimated to stretch for about 1,000 feet.

“Texas will fully utilize its constitutional authority to deal with the crisis you have caused,” Mr. Abbott wrote in response after the DOJ requested the barrier’s removal.

“Texas will see you in court, Mr. President.”

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