Texas Greg. Abbott’s office says Mexico is “flat-out wrong” to tie the death of a migrant to a recently-installed floating border barrier on the Rio Grande — amid objections to the barrier from both Mexico and the Biden administration.
Mexico announced this week that it had been notified to a dead body stuck in the southern part of the buoys that had been placed by Texas in the Rio Grande to prevent migrants from crossing across the treacherous river. A second body was later found about 3 miles upriver.
“We reiterate the position of the Government of Mexico that the placement of wire buoys by the Texas authorities is a violation of our sovereignty,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “We express our concern about the impact on the human rights and personal safety of migrants that these state policies will have, which run counter to the close collaboration between our country and the federal government of the United States.
The report immediately fueled criticism of the border barrier, which now faces a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice, including from high-profile Democrats.
“Abbott is killing people. Who is going to stop him?” former gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke said on Twitter.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took aim at Abbott, saying he is “inhumane.”
But Abbott’s office said that there was no indication that the barriers — which consist of orange buoys and started being installed last month — had anything to do with the death near the barrier.
“The Mexican government is flat-out wrong,” spokesman Andrew Mahaleris told Fox News Digital. “To be clear, preliminary information points to the drowning occurring before the body was even near the barriers. The Texas Department of Public Safety previously reported to Border Patrol the dead body floating upstream from the barriers in the Rio Grande. Also, DPS monitors the barriers for anyone attempting to cross and has not observed anyone attempting to cross since they were installed.”
Mahaleris noted that drownings in the Rio Grande are common, even before the barrier was installed — with four people drowning in early July.
“This is a result of the reckless open border policies of President Biden and President López Obrador. In fact, before Texas deployed barriers, the United Nations declared the U.S.-Mexico border the deadliest land crossing in the world,” he said. “If President Biden and President López Obrador truly cared about human life, they would do their jobs and secure the border.”
The barrier forms part of Operation Lone Star, a multifaceted operation to tackle the border crisis amid what Republicans say is a lack of leadership from the federal government. Texas officials have rejected claims that the barrier is dangerous, saying it will in fact reduce the danger of migrants crossing the river.
“I will do whatever I have to do to defend our state from the invasion of the Mexican drug cartels and others who have tried to come into our country illegally, and I will protect our sovereignty,” Abbott said on Friday.
“Anytime they get in that water, it’s a risk to the migrants. This is the deterrent from even coming in the water,” Texas Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw said in June.
The controversy marks the latest clash between Abbott and Lopez Obrador — who has objected to Abbott’s efforts to stop the flood of illegal immigrants coming in from Mexico.
Mexico sent a diplomatic note last month saying that barrier may violate treaties on boundaries and water. Officials have said they will send an inspection team to the Rio Grande to see whether any part of the barrier extends into Mexico’s side of the border river.
Lopez Obrador also urged Hispanics not to vote for Abbott as part of what he has called an “information campaign.”
“We don’t have to do much, just tell our compatriots not to vote for the governor of Texas or for lawmakers of the Republican Party who support these measures,” he said.
Fox News’ Greg Norman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.