A body was found along a floating barrier recently installed in the Rio Grande by Texas authorities as part of an effort to deter migrants from trying to cross into the United States, Mexican officials said.
Authorities were still working to recover and identify the body seen floating along the barrier, Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a news release Wednesday, the first time it has reported a death along the roadblock. A cause of death had not yet been determined, it says.
In a separate news release on Thursday, the ministry said a second body had also been discovered upstream, about three miles away from where the first body was found. It was not clear if the second body was found along the floating barrier.
The news comes just weeks after the barriers were installed last month across from Eagle Pass, Texas, in an attempt to prevent migrants from crossing the river. The move sparked backlash from both sides of the border, as well as legal action from the Justice Department.
Mexico’s foreign ministry said it was initially alerted to the remains by Texas officials. The department, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment overnight.
The reported discovery prompted fresh criticism from the Mexican government over the installation of the barriers, with its foreign ministry expressing concern about the “impact” on migrants’ human rights and security. It added that such policies run counter to the close cooperation shared between the US and Mexican federal governments.
The decision to install the barriers has faced a backlash from the Biden administration, with the Justice Department filing a lawsuit against Texas and its Republican governor last week over the buoys.
Said the civil case Gov. Greg Abbott violated federal law by installing the floating barriers and asked a judge to order the defendants to “promptly remove the unauthorized obstruction” at their own expense.
The lawsuit cited the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899, which prohibits “the creation of any obstruction, not affirmatively authorized by Congress, to the navigability of any of the waters of the United States.”
It also alleged that Abbott failed to obtain a permit through the US Army Corps of Engineers before installing the barrier in the Rio Grande, as required by federal law.
After being informed of the Justice Department’s intention to sue, Abbott last week sent one letter to President Joe Biden, accusing him of trying to interfere with his state’s “sovereign interest” in securing its border. “Texas will see you in court, Mr. President,” he wrote.
Abbott also argued that the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act does not apply to Texas’ actions. He further said that while he shares the Biden administration’s concern for the welfare of migrants, the president’s “finger is pointing in the wrong direction.”
“None of us want to see another death in the Rio Grande River,” Abbott wrote. “Yet your open border policies encourage migrants to risk their lives by crossing illegally through water instead of safely and legally at a port of entry. No one drowns on a bridge.”
When previously reached for comment about Abbott’s letter, a spokesman for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division pointed to Monday’s lawsuit and declined further comment.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre accused Abbott at the time about “sowing chaos” and staging inhumane “political stunts”.
“He is actively undermining our border enforcement plan,” she said, adding that illegal border crossings are at their lowest level since Biden took office.
Abbott, she said, “is not acting in good faith here.”
In a July 14 news release Abbott’s office, which marked the installation of the marine barriers, said the effort was part of his administration’s bid, dubbed “Operation Lone Star,” to “secure the border; stop the smuggling of drugs, weapons and people into Texas ; and prevent, detect, and interdict transnational criminal conduct between ports of entry.”
“Operation Lone Star continues to fill the dangerous gaps created by the Biden administration’s refusal to secure the border,” the press release said. “Every individual apprehended or arrested and every ounce of seized drugs would have otherwise found its way into communities across Texas and the nation because of President Joe Biden’s open border policy.”