People are increasingly dying in Texas as Governor Abbott’s border militarization reaches obscene new levels. Bodies have now been pulled from the Rio Grande, stuck in and around the buoy/netting systems and floating razor wire traps that have been laid by the state of Texas in recent months. A pregnant woman was found suffering a miscarriage while trapped in the wire on land. A 3-year-old child just died on one of the buses that Abbott is using to send immigrants to Democrat-led cities as a political stunt. Meanwhile, Texas’ border brinksmanship is increasingly becoming a diplomatic liability as Mexico accuses the state of violating international law. Adding to the cruelty, the floating razor wire and buoy system was manufactured by Texas prison labor.
Operation Lone Star is still destroying lives
These orders come out of the now infamous Operation Lone Star, launched in 2021 under the pretense of responding to President Biden’s supposed “relaxing” of immigration policies. The move reportedly costs around $2.5 million per week. Abbot justified this by issuing a disaster declaration for up to 53 counties, which he claims grants him authority to send the Texas National Guard and state troopers with the Department of Public Safety to these areas.
It is difficult to say just how many people have died, but the victims and stories of cruelty are mounting. In addition to the confirmed deaths, there have been countless injuries including broken limbs, lacerations and hyperthermia. A leaked email from a state trooper involved in Operation Lone Star, in a story published by the Houston Chronicle, revealed that whole families were being pushed back into the river and denied water.
While immigrants and refugees are bearing the brunt of the cruelty by far, it is worth noting that many of the National Guard soldiers called up to enforce Abbott’s border militarization are also suffering in extremely poor conditions. National Guard soldiers are considered part-time, but Operation Lone Star forced them to leave their careers and family behind. They have been living in cramped trailers with some lacking portable toilets.
Even the state trooper whose email was leaked took issue with the operation: “I believe we have stepped over a line into the in humane [sic]. We need to operate it correctly in the eyes of God. We need to recognize that these are people who are made in the image of God and need to be treated as such.”
This raises larger questions of whether it is even possible to “humanely” enforce a border policy that is based on racist lies, fearmongering, violence and scapegoating oppressed communities. But the fact that even some participants in this systemic violation of human rights are questioning its legitimacy is still significant.
The border militarization is severely affecting border towns as well. The residents of Eagle Pass, a border town of about 28,000 that has found itself at the center of the chaos, are struggling with recent DPS seizures of public parks to engage in mass arrests. Reporting by the Texas Tribune details the lives of border residents of all walks of life and political orientations who have turned against the deadly barricades that have uprooted their lives.
Jessie Fuentes, who runs a canoe and kayaking business in Eagle Pass, has filed a suit against Abbott and the DPS after seeing the buoys. Fuentes claims it is hurting his business and the environment: “You’re making that river that ties us together disastrous. You’re ruining the ecosystem, you don’t care about what you’re putting in the middle of it,” explained Fuentes to reporters at his home. (Texas Tribune)
Even large landowners and more well-off border residents are now struggling with the inhumanity of the systems they initially supported. As reported by the Tribune, Magali Urbina, a retired elementary school teacher and Abbott supporter, encountered a pregnant woman, cut and bloodied from the razor wire, struggling on her property. When a few state troopers approached the woman, Urbina told them, “Back off. This is my property and she is going to get through.”
The mayor of Eagle Pass claims he was pressured by DPS to declare that Shelby Park, a local public park, would be converted to private property. Since then, state troopers have arrested hundreds of immigrants for “trespassing” in the public park, a tactic that many would recognize as entrapment.
But residents spoke out and forced the mayor to reverse his decision. “I am deeply saddened to see Shelby Park become a place of militarization, human rights violations and xenophobic rhetoric instead of a place of recreation and friendship,” Nineteen-year-old Karina Flores told Eagle Pass city council members. (MSN) After protests from residents, the city has since reversed the decision and has declared the park public property again.
Who’s responsible for the ‘border crisis’? Abbott, Biden and U.S. imperialism
Abbott has used his cruelty at the border to score cheap political points against Biden, who in Abbott’s words, is doing nothing to “secure” the border. This is also convenient for Biden, who needs to distract from the reality that his own border policy is almost identical to that of his predecessor Donald Trump.
Both Abbott’s and Biden’s narratives about the border exclude the role of U.S. imperialism, which creates the conditions that cause people to flee their homes in the first place. In practice, the United States continues to uphold the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, which claims Latin America and the Caribbean as the United States’ backyard. Biden absurdly upgraded Latin America to the U.S.’ “front yard,” which is not a comfort to the millions suffering the effects of U.S. intervention. At its essence, border militarization has been a bipartisan strategy designed to keep the refugees of U.S. imperialism from seeking refuge in the country that stole their wealth.
The main border policy of Republicans and Democrats alike for the past 30 years has been “prevention through deterrence”: making border crossings so deadly and unguarded crossing areas so remote that immigrants are supposedly deterred from crossing. But because U.S. foreign policy is still bleeding the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States is not “deterring” anything: It is simply increasing the death and suffering.
Abbott’s cruelty is becoming a national and international issue
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has stated his vehement disapproval of these methods, which violate treaties between the United States and Mexico. “Abbott shouldn’t act like that; it’s inhumane,” President Lopez Obrador said in a press briefing. He has stated that the buoys encroach into Mexican territory and violate Mexico’s sovereignty and human rights.
The Department of Justice is suing the state of Texas and Governor Abbot for placing the structures in the river without approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and for creating a public safety hazard. The federal government notes that the state is overstepping its role, as federal entities like Border Patrol are the only ones allowed to enforce border policy.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted Abbott’s belligerence to reporters: “Instead of coming to the table and trying to figure out a way to work together, [Abbott] continues to do this really cruel, unjust, inhumane ways of moving forward with a system that has been broken for decades.” Yet, despite the fact that the Biden administration has the authority to remove buoys and razor wire, they have not done so. Instead of ordering Border Patrol to simply dismantle the illegal barriers on federal property, the Biden administration is tying the matter up in a lengthy court process.
It falls on us to fight this injustice. Just as the residents of Eagle Pass took back Shelby Park, working-class people need to build a mass movement to ensure that the brutal treatment of immigrants ends. At the same time, we need to reject the entire premise of U.S. border militarization, which is racist and imperialist at its core. Immigrants and refugees are not the threat: U.S. political, military and economic interference in the Global South is. Only through people’s power can we make it known that we will not stand for this violation of international law and human rights!