By Sharon Zhang / Truthout
The Mexican government has reported that officials found two dead bodies stuck to buoys — installed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to make it more dangerous for asylum seekers to cross the southern border into the U.S. — which the Biden administration ordered to be taken down last month.
Mexico Foreign Relations officials said that the Texas Department of Public Safety notified the Mexican consulate of one of the dead bodies on Wednesday, and that the cause of death and identity of the person are not public knowledge.
The Mexican National Institute of Migration told ABC that officials found a second body in the buoys on Wednesday, and that the person’s cause of death and identity are also unknown.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the buoys, saying that they violate Mexico’s sovereignty. “We express our concern about the impact on the human rights and personal safety of migrants that these state policies will have, which go in the opposite direction to the close collaboration between our country and the federal government of the United States,” the ministry said, per ABC.
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Abbott announced in June that the state would be installing the buoys along the Rio Grande. Their installation in July has made it more dangerous for asylum seekers, forcing migrants to climb over, swim under, or seek a crossing point in another portion of the river where they may be more likely to drown.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice had ordered Texas officials to take the buoy barrier down by July 24. In a letter to Abbott, the DOJ said that the “State of Texas’s actions violate federal law, raise humanitarian concerns, present serious risks to public safety and the environment, and may interfere with the federal government’s ability to carry out its official duties,” citing a law regarding a prohibition on building structures in navigable waters without federal authorization.
Abbott rebuffed the order, claiming that “Texas has the sovereign authority to defend our border.”
The Department of Justice sued the state of Texas last Monday over Abbott’s defiance, saying that the buoys violate the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act.
“This floating barrier poses threats to navigation and public safety and presents humanitarian concerns,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta in a statement. “Additionally, the presence of the floating barrier has prompted diplomatic protests by Mexico and risks damaging US foreign policy.”
The deaths are the first known instance of fatalities being connected to the buoys.
The deaths further confirm what immigrant advocates have long been saying: Texas’s southern border practices are inhumane and designed specifically to killasylum seekers. Indeed, as far right officials have been utilizing ever more violent anti-migrant tactics, fiscal year 2022 became the worst year on record for migrant deaths, with at least 853 people dying while attempting to cross the border that year.
After the installation of the buoy barrier, border agents observed a spike in people being endangered in relation to the barrier and a line of razor wire also installed by Texas officials.
According to an email reported by the Houston Chronicle in July, border officers witnessed and seemingly caused a number of horrifying circumstances, including a woman undergoing a miscarriage while trapped on the razor wire; a 4-year-old girl passed out in 100-degree heat after border guards pushed a group she was a part of away from the border; a man with a lacerated leg trying to save his children from razor wire installed on a buoy; and a mother and two children dying while trying to cross a portion of the river without razor wire.
Meanwhile, the officer who sent the email said that agents “were given orders to push the people back into the water” to drown and were ordered not to give water to the people trying to cross in the sweltering heat.
Sharon Zhang is a news writer at Truthout covering politics, climate and labor. Before coming to Truthout, Sharon had written stories for Pacific Standard, The New Republic, and more. She has a master’s degree in environmental studies. She can be found on Twitter: @zhang_sharon.