After Gov. Greg Abbott closed off a park on the Texas-Mexico border, a Democrat U.S. representative is blaming the state for the deaths of three illegal border crossers. 

Last week, Abbott deployed the Texas National Guard to take over Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, which is known to be a hotspot for illegal crossings. 

Abbott seized control of the riverfront city property near the Eagle Pass International Bridge under the governor’s emergency powers, blocking off about 2.5 miles of the state’s 1,200-mile border with Mexico. The move also denied federal officials access to the illegal crossing point. 

Shortly after Texas took over the riverfront, three individuals attempting to cross illegally into Texas drowned. Border patrol agents and Democrat U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas accused the Texas Military Department of being responsible for their deaths because they had denied federal agents access to the area. 

“This is a tragedy, and the State bears responsibility,” Cuellar wrote in a press release.

Following an investigation into the matter, the Texas Military Department (TMD) released their findings showing that Cuellar’s allegations were inaccurate. 

“Claims that TMD prevented Border Patrol from saving the lives of drowning migrants are wholly inaccurate,” wrote TMD officials. “TMD Soldiers were in direct communication with Border Patrol on the evening of 12 January when Border Patrol requested access to Shelby Park. Soldiers confirmed that when Border Patrol requested access to the park they stated that Mexican Authorities had already recovered the bodies of two [sic] drowned migrants.”

According to TMD’s release, two illegal border crossers were apprehended by TMD, with one turned over to DPS and another transferred to EMS in response to hypothermic conditions. TMD soldiers continued to watch the river using lights, night vision goggles, and thermals to ensure no other illegal border crossers were in the river or in distress. 

After the incident took place, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent Texas a cease-and-desist letter on Sunday, ordering the state to stop denying Border Patrol agents access to Shelby Park. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is committed to securing the border and ensuring the apprehension, inspection, and proper processing of noncitizens in accordance with the law, as well as to rendering emergency assistance to individuals in need. The recent actions by the State of Texas have impeded operations of the Border Patrol. Those actions conflict with the authority and duties of Border Patrol under federal law and are preempted under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. Texas’s actions also improperly seek to regulate the federal government. I am writing to demand that Texas immediately cease and desist any actions taken by the State that block Border Patrol’s full access to the U.S.-Mexico border in and around the Shelby Park area.

Abbott posted to X, saying the deaths of the illegal border crossers are because of Biden’s open border policies. 

“Turns out @RepCuellar (& some media) were so eager to point finger at Texas for drowning of migrants they forgot to get the facts,” wrote Abbott. “When BP requested access to river the drownings had already occurred & found in MX. The fact is the deaths are b/c of Biden’s Open Border magnet.”

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.