Jurriën timber The wrecking ball-sized buoys that make up the floating barrier that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott installed in July in the Rio Grande have circular saws between them, according to a video posted by Rep. Sylvia Garcia.
“Appalled by the ongoing cruel and inhumane tactics employed by @GovAbbott at the Texas border,” Garcia, a Democrat, wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter, alongside the clip. “The situation’s reality is unsettling as these buoys’ true danger and brutality come to light. We must stop this NOW!”
Mexican authorities said last week that two bodies had been recovered from the river in recent days, including one that was caught in the floating barrier. One body was found stuck in the lines of orange buoys, Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said in a statement on August 2. A second body was recovered about three miles upriver from the buoys, The Associated Press reported.
Migrants walk after crossing the Rio Grande River into the United States in Eagle Pass, Texas as seen from Piedras Negras, Coahuila state, Mexico on August 4, 2023. Democratic Rep. Sylvia Garcia has called the installation of the barrier “inhumane.”
Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images
A repost of the video by Laiken Jordahl, a Southwest conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, amassed more than 8 million views.
The center is an environmental group where Jordahl works to protect wildlife, ecosystems, and public lands throughout the Southwest desert and U.S-Mexico borderlands, according to its website.
“Abbott has installed circular saws between the Rio Grande border buoys to maim or kill anyone who attempts to climb over,” Jordahl wrote in the post. “Two bodies have already been found trapped in the floating barrier. He wants more migrants to die.”
Jordahl told Newsweek: “Each day the floating wall, saw blades and concertina wire are allowed to stay up, more migrants will be injured or killed and more wildlife will suffer.
“Governor Abbott is turning this beautiful river into a death trap for people and wildlife. Our wildlands and communities will not be turned into war zones. Abbott must be stopped.”
Appalled by the ongoing cruel and inhumane tactics employed by @GovAbbott at the Texas border. The situation’s reality is unsettling as these buoys’ true danger and brutality come to light. We must stop this NOW! pic.twitter.com/XPc4C8Tnl0
— Rep. Sylvia Garcia (@RepSylviaGarcia) August 8, 2023
Garcia took the video during a trip to the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas, to “see first hand the cruel & inhumane border initiative,” she wrote in another post on the platform.
Newsweek has contacted Garcia and Jordahl for comment via email.
Andrew Mahaleris, a spokesman for Abbott, told Newsweek that Mexican authorities and Democrats “spreading false information that Texas’ marine barriers caused any death are flat-out wrong.”
He said: “These marine barriers help deter illegal river crossings, redirecting migrants to use one of the 29 international bridges on the Texas-Mexico border where they can safely and legally cross. No one drowns on a bridge.”
Mahaleris added that until President Joe Biden “steps up and does his job to secure the border, Texas will continue taking historic action to respond to this ongoing crisis and protect Texans.”
“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 department said in the statement.
“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.”
Mahaleris earlier told The AP on Thursday that preliminary information indicates the person drowned before coming near the barriers. He said Texas officers monitor the barriers and have not observed anyone attempting to cross since they were installed. “Unfortunately, drownings in the Rio Grande by people attempting to cross illegally are all too common,” he said.
Mexico and others have warned about the risks of drowning posed by the floating barrier, since it is designed to make it harder for migrants to climb over or swim under.
The barrier was installed in the Rio Grande in July as part of Republican Abbott’s multibillion-dollar effort to secure the U.S. border with Mexico. Other efforts include razor-wire fencing and arresting migrants on trespassing charges.
The measures sparked fresh criticism last month after The Houston Chronicle reported details from a trooper’s email to a superior raising concerns about “inhumane” tactics being used.
The trooper’s email reportedly said troopers were being ordered to push children and nursing babies back into the Rio Grande and to deny water to migrants even in extreme heat, and also detailed how migrants were being left bloodied from razor wire. The trooper’s email also raised alarm that Texas was setting “traps” of razor wire-wrapped barrels in parts of the river with high water and low visibility, increasing the risks of drowning.
Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Travis Considine has denied the claims.
Texas Gov Abbott has installed circular saws between the Rio Grande border buoys to maim or kill anyone who attempts to climb over. Two bodies have already been found trapped in the floating barrier.
He wants more migrants to die.
— Laiken Jordahl (@LaikenJordahl) August 8, 2023
The U.S. Justice Department is suing Abbott over the barrier, after warning that it violates federal law and raises humanitarian concerns for migrants crossing into the country from Mexico. The lawsuit is asking a court to force Texas to remove it.
“We allege that Texas has flouted federal law by installing a barrier in the Rio Grande without obtaining the required federal authorization,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement in late July.
“This floating barrier poses threats to navigation and public safety and presents humanitarian concerns. Additionally, the presence of the floating barrier has prompted diplomatic protests by Mexico and risks damaging U.S. foreign policy.”
Update 8/9/23, 10 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with comment from Andrew Mahaleris.
Update 8/10/23, 3:30 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with comment from Laiken Jordahl.