Gonzalez: Abbott is grandstanding about the way he is treating brown people at the border

EDINBURG, TEXAS – Democrats in the Texas congressional delegation held a webinar last week to condemn the floating barriers of razor wire and buoys Gov. Greg Abbott has placed in the middle of the Rio Grande.

Conspicuous by his absence was U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez. However, any thoughts that the McAllen Democrat may not be as vehement in his opposition to Abbott were quickly dispelled.

Gonzalez held an impromptu gathering with reporters at an event to signal his success in securing federal funding for the North Main Drain project in Edinburg. 

Asked by reporters about news reports that Texas law enforcement have been told to push migrants back into the river and deny them drinking water, Gonzalez said:

“Clearly, it is saddening and it is inhumane and it comes from the Governor’s office, where he’s grandstanding to the country about the way he is treating brown people on the border.

“I think it’s time for communities across our country, Democrats and Republicans, to stand up to this kind of tyranny that we’re seeing right here in the state of Texas.”

A reporter asked Gonzalez to respond to those that might say President Biden was not doing enough to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. Gonzalez swiftly shot that down. 

“Well, hold on. We have seen major improvements along the border. Undocumented crossings are down by over 70 percent. If you go to the border now, in our region, it’s pretty unremarkable what you see,” Gonzalez said.

“When they lifted Title 42 and implemented Title 7, which I advocated against… I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong. What the President did, what Secretary Mayorkas has done, has positively impacted our border and that’s a fact. People could point fingers and say things but the reality is, undocumented crossings are down by 70 percent.”

Gonzalez said he sent Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas a text the other day to say that if this huge drop in undocumented migrants is maintained, he (Mayorkas) “has got some pretty big bragging rights.”

Gonzalez said Mayorkas responded with: “Well, I don’t want to brag yet.”

Gonzalez continued: “But, here we are two and a half months since and the changes and improvements that we’ve seen on the border… (and the results) are just astonishing. So, if anybody wants to point at the border and say we have a major problem, like we have had in the past, they’re doing it for nothing other than political reasons.”

Gonzalez was also asked if he has heard from anyone at the Department of Justice about their just launched investigation into Abbott’s latest border security initiative. 

“As of yesterday, they (the DOJ) have been in communication with me (to say) that they are investigating it. I certainly believe the Governor has overstepped his jurisdiction and he has done it in a very inhumane way. the way we’re treating human beings,” Gonzalez said.

“Nobody has advocated against the mass migration… that’s come to our border than me. But, we’re going to treat humans like humans. And I think the way we’re treating brown people on our southern border is really shameful. And I think it’s something that both Democrats and Republicans should stand up to.”

Asked what he hopes the DOJ will do, Gonzalez said: “Well, I think they certainly need to file a lawsuit and draw a line of where the jurisdiction of the state government ends and the federal government begins because what’s happening on the border is clearly in the jurisdiction of the federal government and it’s going to create a conflict in our court system.”

La Unión del Pueblo Entero

Rio Grande Valley community group La Unión del Pueblo Entero has welcomed news that the DOJ is suing Abbott. The group said further action is required, however, including an immediate halt to Abbott’s Operational Lone Star.

Dani Marrero Hi, deputy director of LUPE, said:

“We welcome the Department of Justice suing Gov. Greg Abbott for his illegal and violent border enforcement tactics. For years, Texas advocates have sounded the alarm and called on the federal government to intervene on the harm Abbott is inflicting on people at the border.

“We hope this is only the first step from the federal government to put an immediate halt on Abbott’s Operation Lone Star and change course on the treatment of asylum-seekers. The Department of Homeland Security should cease to collaborate with Texas’ illegal and racist border operations. The White House should stop endorsing deterrence tactics that ignore the humanitarian needs of children, families, and individuals at the border. Policies that do not take into account human needs and human rights are bound to fail, causing more harm to people seeking safety.

“For generations, South Texans have modeled the values of welcoming people with dignity and protecting the vulnerable. We extend a helping hand to our neighbors and newcomers by showing up and providing humanitarian aid during moments of crisis. We expect our government to lead with these same values— not violence and callousness.”

American Civil Liberties Union

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas have also condemned the latest efforts by Texas law enforcement officers to endanger children and other migrants in the Rio Grande River.

ACLU said Customs and Border Protection must condemn Texas’ “dangerous deployment” of floating barriers in the Rio Grande and immediately cease its cooperation with Operation Lone Star. 

“What Texas is doing at the border will seriously hurt or kill people if it hasn’t already. The leaked complaint shocks our conscience, but it unfortunately is consistent with what we have seen from Gov. Abbott. Our border communities are home, and cruelty to migrants is not a policy solution,” said David Donatti, ACLU of Texas staff attorney.

“Texas must immediately stop intentionally endangering the lives of migrants seeking protection at the border. The federal government must also act, by investigating these damning allegations and by the Department of Homeland Security decisively ending its own collusion with Operation Lone Star, which has facilitated and encouraged Texas’s expansion of a proven human and civil rights disaster,” said Sarah Mehta, ACLU senior border policy counsel.

Children at Risk

Nonprofit group Children at Risk issued this statement about Gov. Abbott’s latest border security initiative. It came from the group’s president and CEO, Dr. Bob Sanborn:

“This week, a report highlighted claims that state officials have ordered state troopers and officers working at the border to deny water to migrant children and families and to push them back into the Rio Grande. The claim detailed several incidents of dehydration and injury of children getting caught in concertina wire including: a 4-year-old girl passed out from heat after attempting to cross the wire, a 15-year-old boy broke his leg trying to walk around the wire, and a 19-year-old woman miscarried while caught in the wire. This all comes during one of the hottest summers on record.

“These actions harm the safety and well-being of immigrant children who are already facing numerous challenges and vulnerabilities. This places an additional undue burden on these families. As we strive to ensure that all children receive equal protections and are treated humanely, we also demand our law enforcement and state leaders do the same. No child should live in fear of losing their life. We demand accountability and immigration policies that put the safety and well-being of children first.”

“Children At Risk is committed to protecting all children regardless of immigration status.We urge state leaders to ensure the protection and well-being of all children who cross Texas’ southern border.”

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio represents Eagle Pass, which is where Abbott’s floating river barriers have been erected.

Gutierrez said: “Greg Abbott, pull these buoys out of the water now. Children are dying. People are getting hurt. By no means should these strategies be considered immigration policy or even border security. We are endangering the lives of not only migrants, but law enforcement. This is reckless and cruel, plain and simple.”

Here is a copy of a letter Gutierrez sent to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland:

July 18, 2023 

The Honorable Merrick Garland

Attorney General, United States of America U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20530 

Dear General Garland: 

Officers working for Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security initiative have been ordered to push small children and nursing babies back into the Rio Grande, and have been told not to give water to asylum seekers even in extreme heat. This policy has resulted in severe injuries and deaths of several migrants. Last month, a pregnant woman was found bleeding and severely injured trapped in razor wire. A four-year-old girl passed out from heat exhaustion, as she attempted to push through the razor wire barriers. A teenager broke his leg as he attempted to navigate crossing the Rio Grande. No doubt there are many others that died or faced bodily injury because of the godless and inhumane policies implemented by Gov. Abbott. 

It is long past time for the Department of Justice to investigate these unauthorized and illegal actions. Since he launched Operation Lone Star (OLS) more than two years ago, Gov. Abbott has taken drastic measures to curb illegal immigration, including starting construction of a state-funded border wall, deploying thousands of National Guard members, arresting and jailing migrants on state criminal charges, and spending millions on bus tickets to send migrants to other cities run by his political opposition. What began as a farce has now turned into violent, horrifying injuries and death. To make matters worse, illegal border crossings have increased nationally and in Texas since the beginning of OLS. 

There are few greater sins in this world than watching children scream in agony from “traps” that were set for them by law enforcement officials. I believe that these new orders and policy changes violate federal law and our international agreements with Mexico. Likewise, I believe that those that instituted this policy will not face accountability for their actions from state officials. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) has said that it will conduct an audit or an investigation into this matter. DPS cannot be trusted to investigate itself. 

In South Texas, we have seen this before. Nearly fourteen months ago, 19 children and 2 educators were left by law enforcement to fend for themselves for 77 minutes against a heavily armed and deranged gunmen. More than a year later, law enforcement officials have not faced one shred of accountability for their failure to breach the classroom at Robb Elementary. These same law enforcement officials have now initiated a policy that ensures horrendous pain and severe injury to migrants entering our country. 

This is not the Texas I grew up in and not the America in which I want to raise my children. Whatever we were, we did not let pregnant women lacerate themselves through concertina wire to try and live the American dream. It is now time for federal officials to investigate these lawless actions and to force the leadership in Texas to take full responsibility for their cruel and un-American policies. 

Illegal entry into the United States is a crime, but it should not be punishable by death and severe bodily injury. 


Roland Gutierrez

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez at a news conference held in Edinburg to announce federal funding for the North Main Drain project. (Photo: Steve Taylor/RGG)

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