Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) called Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) efforts to limit migrant crossings on the Rio Grande “barbaric,” saying barriers topped with razor wire placed in the river were inhumane “death traps.”
Castro’s comments come after an officer working at Texas’ southern border with Mexico emailed his superior to express grave concerns about the number of migrants being injured attempting to cross into the United States under new policies enacted by the governor. The trooper, who works for the state’s Department of Public Safety, described orders to deny asylum seekers water and push migrants back into the Rio Grande “to go back to Mexico.”
The email, first reported by the San Antonio Express-News, detailed multiple instances where migrants were injured by floating barricades covered in razor wire.
“It’s barbaric treatment, it’s extreme cruelty,” Castro told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Saturday. “You know, that’s something, Jim, that you would expect to see in a country like North Korea. Those are the kinds of stories that we hear about coming out of North Korea.”
Castro added in a separate interview on MSNBC that some of the razor wire can become nearly invisible as water levels in the river rise. The lawmaker called them state-sanctioned “drowning devices.”
The Justice Department threatened to take Texas to court over the measures in recent days, saying they have not been approved by the federal government and raise serious humanitarian concerns.
“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,” a letter sent to Abbott’s office, obtained Friday by CNN, reads.
Abbott recently unveiled the harsh new measures across miles of the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, Texas, calling the plan Operation Lone Star. Officials have deployed the floating barricades and buoys topped with dangerous razor wire in an effort to secure the southern border. But human rights groups have warned they will only increase the danger of drowning among vulnerable, exhausted people seeking asylum protections.
Steven McCraw, the director of the state’s Department of Public Safety, emailed troopers earlier this month saying the barricades were not meant to injure people, but deter smuggling.
“The smugglers care not if the migrants are injured, but we do, and we must take all necessary measures to mitigate the risk to them including injuries from trying to cross over the concertina wire, drownings and dehydration,” the message, reported by the Express-News, said.
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