(EAGLE PASS, Texas) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said authorities will install a floating water barrier to prevent migrants from attempting to cross rivers in heavily trafficked areas of the Rio Grande Valley.
The barrier will be made up of a string of buoys that can be placed and dismantled in different areas throughout the border, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Col. Steven McCraw said at the ceremony.
“We’re securing the border at the border,” Abbott said. “What these buoys will allow us to do is prevent people from even getting to the border.”
The governor announced the initiative at a bill-signing ceremony on Thursday, where he signed six border-related bills.
McCraw said the first 1000-foot stretch will be placed by July 7 in Eagle Pass, Texas, which shares the border with the Mexican city of Piedras Negras. The buoys will range in size but will be about four feet long, he said.
When contacted by ABC News, a spokesperson for the city of Piedras Negras said they had been given no information about the barrier. It’s unclear if any other local Mexican officials have been consulted with or told about the governor’s plans.
The announcement followed the signing of several bills meant to address border security, including one that designates Mexican Cartels as “foreign terrorist organizations.”
McCraw said safety risks were assessed before deciding to place the string of buoys.
“We don’t want anybody getting hurt, in fact, we want to prevent people from getting hurt, prevent people from drowning,” McCraw said.
Rochelle Garza, President of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said the plan would only add to the risks immigrants face when crossing the river.
“Gov. Abbott continues to overreach and violate our U.S. Constitution by meddling in federal immigration and border issues. We need the Federal government to ensure that those seeking the safety of our country are welcomed with dignity. And we need our state government to focus on investing in our border communities. People already face the risk of drowning in the Rio Grande due to plants, debris, and an unpredictable current – these barriers would only add to the danger they already face,” said Garza.
DPS did not respond to a request for comment when asked if it had and information that signaled the placement of the buoys could lead to an increase in deaths for people attempting to swim across.
The current near Eagle Pass can be particularly dangerous. There are areas that are sometimes shallow enough to cross on foot, but sudden drop-offs and a strong current has led to drownings.
Bishop Evans, a sergeant with the Texas National Guard deployed to the border under Gov. Abbott’s Operation Lone Star drowned in April 2021 attempting to save two migrants who appeared to be struggling to stay afloat in the river near Eagle Pass. His family spoke with ABC News as they sought more information from the Texas Military Department.
In June 2021, a spokesperson for the Texas National Guard told ABC News throw-ropes had been ordered but not delivered by the time Sgt. Evans went beyond his duties and dove into the water.
“If it could happen to Bishop, then certainly it could happen to anyone,” Sgt. Evans’ aunt Felisha Pulled told ABC News.
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