Feds blame Texas in deaths on US-Mexico border

Two migrant children and their mother drowned Jan. 12 while trying to cross from Mexico into the United States, after Texas authorities prevented  US Border Patrol agents from reaching the victims to render life-saving aid, charged US Rep. Henry Cuellar, who represents a district on the border. The US Department of Homeland Security said the three migrants drowned near Shelby Park in the border town of Eagle Pass after Texas Guardsmen "physically barred" Border Patrol agents from entering the area. Mexican officials recovered the bodies the next morning on their side of the Rio Grande, in Piedras Negras.

"This is a tragedy and the State [Texas] bears responsibility," said Cuellar in his statement detailing the series of events.

In a filing with the US Supreme Court, mere hours before the deaths, the US Department of Justice told the high court that the Texas National Guard had recently deployed armed troops and vehicles to block access to the Rio Grande and informed Border Patrol agents that they would not be allowed to enter Shelby Park "in any operational capacity."

"Texas Military Department soldiers stated they would not grant access to the migrants—even in the event of an emergency," Cuellar said. "Border Patrol personnel were forced out of Shelby Park earlier this week by the Texas National Guard under order of Governor [Greg] Abbott. As a result, Border Patrol was unable to render aid to the migrants and attempt to save them."

The deaths occurred in the context of a series of brewing battles between the US federal government and the state of Texas. These include a new Texas bill that would allow the arrest of all undocumented migrants (even those seeking asylum, in contravention of federal law), and floating barriers in the Rio Grande installed by the state, in defiance of federal authorities.

Gabrien Gregory, a former candidate for Texas House of Representatives, said on social media that the situation necessitates federal intervention. "Another woman and two children dead as a result of Governor Abbott's policies," Gregory said. "I know [President Biden] cares but there needs to be action right now. We need to federalize the National Guard & get this situation in Texas in check."

From Jurist, Jan. 14. Used with permission.

See our last report on the struggle in Texas.

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The vote, 214 for and 216 against, split largely along party lines, with the majority of Republican representatives voting for impeachment and the majority of Democrats voting against. However, four Republican representatives did cross party lines, voting against Mayorkas’ impeachment: Ken Buck (CO), Mike Gallagher (WI), Tom McClintock (CA) and Blake Moore (UT). Moore claimed after the vote that he switched his vote at the last minute for procedural reasons, in order to allow Republicans to vote again on Mayorkas' impeachment in the future.

The sponsor of the impechment measure, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), reacted to the defeat and the three Republican nay votes, telling CNN, "I'm sure they’ll hear from their constituents, I’m sure they’re probably hearing from them already." (Jurist)

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Mayorkas will now face trial in the Senate, where a two-thirds vote is required to remove him from his position. (Jurist)

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The Court's order was in response to a stay granted by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit two days earlier, allowing the law to be enforced. The County of El Paso and two civil rights organizations submitted an application to the Supreme Court to vacate the stay. The applicants argued that the power to regulate immigration lies exclusively with the federal government. (Jurist)

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