Texas Gov. Abbott’s Policies Are Killing Asylum Seekers (OPINION)

Aug 4, 2023
12:35 PM

A guardsman keeps watch over a section of the Rio Grande that is fortified with concertina wire and large buoys being used as a floating border barrier on the Rio Grande Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023, in Eagle Pass, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

HOUSTON — At least six migrants have died in the Rio Grande River near Eagle Pass, Texas in the last month. Four were found dead, including a toddler, over the Fourth of July weekend—the same weekend a Texas State Trooper leaked information to the Houston Chronicle detailing the state’s policies that included pushing migrants into the river.

The bodies of two more migrants were found and recovered by Mexico on Wednesday, one identified as a Honduran boy.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) says one of the victims drowned downriver and floated to the location of the recently installed floating barricades in the river. But making the crossing more difficult for migrants greatly increases the danger.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s policies are intentionally cruel, but they’re in line with federal policy since the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in 1996—the underlying principle of which is to use cruelty as a deterrent.

The implementation of the IIRIRA has been a disaster not just for migrants but for communities across the United States. The law intentionally criminalizes immigrants and bolsters the private prison system by centering incarceration and family separation as punishment—policies that were highlighted during former the Obama administration and even more so under former President Donald Trump.

Now, with President Joe Biden, states have picked up where Trump’s savagery left off. Had the current administration acted sooner to stop states like Texas from violating federal law, it may have prevented these and other deaths directly caused by Gov. Abbott’s unilateral policies of harm. It wasn’t until public outcry and 80 Democrats in Congress pressured the White House that the administration decided to act.

A major factor in President Biden’s border policies is Susan Rice, the former domestic policy advisor who has shown disdain for immigrants, as noted by numerous reports about her time in the current administration. Several other off-the-record reports indicate that people close to the president had been advising him to “not touch” the humanitarian crisis inflamed by Gov. Abbott at the Texas-Mexico border.

As DPS and Abbott focus on the irrelevant question of whether or not a migrant found yesterday died at the buoys placed by Texas officials, human lives are being lost at the hands of policies that target immigrants based on the color of their skin or places of origin. Meanwhile, Gov. Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continue employing the same rhetoric that leads to brutality and the murder of non-white immigrants by bigots—the same language that led to the mass shooting targeting Hispanics four years ago in El Paso.

Of the most vocal members of Congress who have been speaking out against Gov. Abbott’s inhumane policies and the White House’s inaction is Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX).

“Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s barrel traps have caused an asylum seeker to drown,” he tweeted on Wednesday. “The Texas Governor is knowingly trying to injure, maim and kill migrants seeking asylum in the United States with razor wire and drowning devices. Barbaric.”


The Mexican foreign ministry also blasted Gov. Abbott’s buoy barrier.

“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 foreign ministry said in a 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.”

“No good person would do this,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at his daily news conference on Thursday. “This is inhumane and no person should be treated like this.”


Arturo Domínquez is a first-generation Cuban American, anti-racist, journalist, and the publisher of The Antagonist magazine. Twitter: @ExtremeArturo