Texas military denies ignoring migrant river pleas

Screenshot of border video
Image caption,The video shows the woman calling for help just feet from a Texas National Guard boat.

By Bernd Debusmann Jr

BBC News, Washington

A new video from the US-Mexico border appears to show Texas National Guard members ignoring pleas from a migrant woman in the Rio Grande river.

A woman and child appeared in danger of drowning in the river along the Texas-Mexico border in the 12 December video.

Texas National Guard members seemed to ignore the woman’s cries for help.

The Texas Military Department told BBC News the migrants were not in any serious or immediate danger and were capable of returning to Mexico.

Officials with the Texas Military Department told BBC News that the soldiers had “approached by boat and determined that there were no signs of medical distress, injury or incapacitation and they had the ability to return the short distance back to the Mexican shore”.

The statement added that the US troops “remained on site to monitor the situation”.

The video has circulated as migrant crossings and detentions on the US southern border have spiked this year – nearly 9,000 migrants were apprehended on Monday alone.

In the clip, taken near the town of Eagle Pass, Texas, the woman in the water can be heard telling members of the Texas National Guard in a nearby boat that she “can’t walk anymore”.

“I’m begging you, please help me. I really can’t anymore,” she can be heard saying in Spanish, with the cries of the child clearly audible. “Please don’t abandon me here.”

Priscilla Lugo, a Texas-based advocacy director for LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a civil rights organisation, recorded the video. At the time, she was on a canoe trip to observe the impact of Texas’ border security operations.

“It was clear she was already in some sort of need,” Ms Lugo told the BBC. “She was begging for help. I was perpetually worried for her since the moment I heard her.”

In the video, a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) airboat can be seen moving through the river nearby.

Ms Lugo said that she believed that CBP – which is usually tasked with water rescues in the area – was coming to help the woman and child, who she estimated was three or four years old.

“They got very, very close to her… but zoomed past her and the baby,” she recounted. “At that point, we don’t hear the mom or the baby crying anymore. We don’t really see them. They go under water.”

Several minutes later, Ms Lugo said that she saw that the woman had dragged herself to the riverbank on the Mexican side.

“It was a scary few moments until we saw her come out,” she added.

The incident took place several hundred metres from controversial border buoys that have been the subject of intense legal wrangling.

The League of United Latin American Citizens – one of the largest Latino civil rights organisations in the US – demanded a federal investigation into a “callous disregard for human life”.

Migrants in Eagle Pass on 19 December
Image caption,A spike in migrant detentions in December has strained US government resources.

The video’s emergence comes as officials face a significant migrant increase at the US southern border, particularly in Texas and Arizona. Daily migrant detentions are as high as 10,000 in December, compared to about 6,000 in October.

Earlier this week, acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller told CBS, the BBC’s US partner, that the migrant crossings are presenting a “serious challenge”.

Texas Governor Abbott announced https://berharaplahlagi.com Operation Lone Star in March 2021. The state-run border strategy included new riverbank fortifications and the floating buoys on the Rio Grande.

Texas officials claim the plan has stopped nearly 490,000 migrants and led to the arrest of 37,300 criminals.

It has, however, faced intense criticism from the federal government and the White House, in part, over concerns that migrants are being mistreated.

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