Biden administration officials have grown increasingly concerned over recent months about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s measures along the Texas-Mexico border, which have disrupted US Border Patrol operations in the region and put migrants at risk.
“It’s making our job harder,” one Homeland Security official told CNN.
Border agents have historically worked closely with Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety. But the latest steps taken by the state have made some day-to-day operations more challenging.
The Texas Department of Public Safety made certain portions of the Texas-Mexico border more difficult to access, marking a departure from the coordination that typically exists between law enforcement. Agents on the ground have also sent regular reports to US Customs and Border Protection headquarters about what they’re observing as Abbott’s operation has been underway, another DHS official said.
Disturbing images of migrants with injuries and troubling reports of Texas troops pushing migrants back to Mexico forced the Biden’s administration hand. In a significant development Wednesday, the Justice Department said it’s assessing the situation along the Texas-Mexico border – marking an escalation from an administration that for months had stopped short of taking any actions against Texas.
“The department is aware of the troubling reports, and we are working with DHS and other relevant agencies to assess the situation,” DOJ spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa told CNN on Wednesday. An assessment could be the first step toward an investigation.
Internal discussions about legal action against Texas date back to last year, when Abbott began sending migrants to cities nationwide without alerting them and have continued with the deployment of buoys in the Rio Grande, which pose a potential drowning risk to migrants and now, concern over the treatment of migrants.
The inspector general for the Texas Department of Public Safety has received several additional complaints from DPS personnel on the front lines at the Texas-Mexico border about the treatment of migrants trying to enter the United States, three sources familiar with the investigation told CNN. Among the complaints are reports that Texas troopers were told to push back migrants into the Rio Grande and ordered not to give them water.
In a Tuesday joint statement with other Texas top officials, including Department of Public Safety Chief Steve McCraw, Abbott’s office said there have been no orders or directions given under Operation Lone Star that “would compromise the lives of those attempting to cross the border illegally.”
After reports of the mistreatment of migrants broke this week, State Department Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian Nichols, told Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat, that the administration was concerned about Abbott’s actions with respect to human rights, Castro told CNN.
Castro also raised concerns about the reports to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, saying in a statement: “I raised the issue of Governor Abbott’s barbarity at a dinner tonight with Secretary Blinken. I read him the title and first paragraph of the Express-News article and urged the Administration to intervene – and to remove the death traps Abbott has installed for the sake of human rights.”