US-Mexico border: 3 migrants die in drowning at Eagle Pass, days after Texas Border Patrol intercept

Kayleigh Greenlee Beale/Reuters

Texas National Guard troops control people entering and exiting Shelby Park along the U.S.-Mexico border in Eagle Pass, Texas on January 12, 2024.



CNN

Three migrants, a woman and two children, drowned on Saturday in the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas — the epicenter of the most recent migrant crisis — days after state officials blocked U.S. Border Patrol agents from accessing miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. Officials said.

“It's a tragedy and the government needs to take responsibility,” Rep. Henry CullerA Democrat from Texas said in XFormally known as Twitter.

The congressman said the Border Patrol learned of a group of six migrants in distress on the Rio Grande around 9 p.m. Friday.

Cuellar said in a social media post that the Border Patrol called the Texas Department of the Army, the Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety, but were “unsuccessful” in releasing information over the phone. Federal agents later went to a gate at Shelby Park set up by Texas authorities and provided the information, Cuellar said.

“However, Texas Department of Defense soldiers will not grant access to immigrants — even in the event of an emergency — and they will send a trooper to investigate the situation,” Culler told X.

According to Cuellar, early Saturday morning, three migrant bodies were recovered by Mexican authorities.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed the deaths Saturday and said Border Patrol agents had stopped assisting at the border.

“Responding to a distress call from the Mexican government, Border Patrol agents were physically blocked from entering the area by Texas officials,” a DHS spokesperson told CNN in a statement. “The Texas governor's policies are cruel, dangerous and inhumane, and Texas' blatant disregard for federal authority over immigration poses serious risks.”

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The Texas Department of Defense said in a statement Saturday that the Border Patrol was contacted at 9 p.m. Friday about a “distressed migrant situation” and searched the river with flashlights and night vision goggles, but “no migrants were observed.”

About 45 minutes later, Mexican officers were seen responding to an incident on the Mexican side of the riverbank, according to the Texas Department of Defense. “The TMT relayed their observations back to the Border Patrol, and they confirmed that Mexican officials did not require additional assistance,” the statement said.

“At no time did TMT security personnel observe any distressed immigrants along the river, nor did TMT turn away any illegal immigrants from the United States during this period,” the Texas Department of Defense said. “Furthermore, at no time has TMT been notified of any bodies in the Shelby Park area, nor has TMT been notified of any bodies found at the US border in connection with this situation.”

The Border Patrol has been suspended from Shelby Park near the Rio Grande in the border town of Eagle Pass since Wednesday night, as Texas officials set up fences, gates and razor wire to secure the park and surrounding areas. Rio Grande, CNN previously reported. The Texas Department of Defense told CNN the state is preparing for future immigration surges and cracking down on “illegal immigrant crossing agencies.”

“We are saddened by the migrant drowning at Eagle Pass,” a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection said in a written statement. “We are deeply concerned by actions that prevent the U.S. Border Patrol from performing their essential tasks of apprehending people entering the United States illegally and providing humanitarian response to people in need.”

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Rep. Joaquin Castro, another Texas Democrat, released a statement Saturday saying, “Texas officials prevented Texas officials from doing their job and allowed two children to drown in the Rio Grande.”

Both Texas Governor Greg Abbott's office and the Texas Department of Public Safety referred CNN to the Texas National Guard for additional information.

In Eagle Pass, which has become the epicenter of the migrant crisis, city officials have reported a significant drop in the number of migrant encounters — from thousands this week to about 500 apprehensions daily. A few weeks agoCNN previously reported.

Tensions are high between state and federal officials as they challenge many policies implemented by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Razor wire at the border and creates a new law Illegal entry into Texas is a state crime.

Biden administration The state filed a complaint with the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday about blocking the Border Patrol from the area, and the high court said the developments “reinforce” the federal government's need to intervene soon.

On Saturday, the state told the Superior Court that it was “immediately acting” to ensure Border Patrol agents had access to the boat ramp at Shelby Park.

CNN's Sarah Weisfeld, Priscilla Alvarez and Jay Kraft contributed to this report.

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