Whistleblowing DPS trooper identified as Abbott denies border cruelty

Wednesday, July 19, 2023
DPS denies alleged orders to push children back into Rio Grande
In the wake of a Houston Chronicle report describing so-called "inhumane" treatment of migrant families, state leaders are denying ever giving orders that compromise lives.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A new report from ABC13's media partner the Houston Chronicle details brutal conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Immigration advocates are demanding change after the report alleges troopers have been ordered to push small children and nursing babies back into the Rio Grande, as well as being told not to give water to asylum seekers even in extreme heat.

An email from a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper to a supervisor also suggests state law enforcement officers have set up razor wire-wrapped barrels in parts of the river.

"It breaks my heart," Cesar Espinosa, the executive director of FIEL Houston, said. "I could never imagine my 5-year-old having to go through this, but I also cannot imagine what I would have to be going through in my home country to make this life-altering decision."

A DPS representative denied any policy against giving water to migrant people, but border assistance groups said the report isn't surprising.

"They're not going to stop migration," Alan Lizarraga, with Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso, said. "What they're doing is putting migrants at risk of drowning, at risk of hurting themselves. So, what we really need to do is think of humanitarian solutions."

SEE MORE: Troopers told to push children into Rio Grande, Chronicle reports

"That is not only inhumane, I think it's criminal at some point, not taking care of people you have in your custody," Houston immigration attorney Raed Gonzalez explained.

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott's office issued a joint statement from Texas border czar Mike Banks, DPS Director Steve McCraw, and Texas Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, following reporting on directives given under Operation Lone Star:

"No orders or directions have been given under Operation Lone Star that would compromise the lives of those attempting to cross the border illegally. The Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Military Department continue taking steps to monitor migrants in distress, provide appropriate medical attention when needed, and encourage them to use one of the 29 international bridges along the Texas-Mexico Border where they can safely and legally cross. With migrants from over 150 countries encouraged by open border policies to risk their lives and make this dangerous trek to enter our country illegally, Texas is deploying every tool and strategy to deter and repel illegal crossings between ports of entry. The absence of these tools and strategies-including concertina wire that snags clothing-encourages migrants to make potentially life-threatening and illegal crossings. Through Operation Lone Star, Texas continues stepping up to respond to the unprecedented humanitarian crisis at our southern border.

All personnel assigned to Operation Lone Star are prepared to detect and respond to any individuals who may need water or medical attention. Operation Lone Star agency partners use verbal warnings and signage to direct migrants attempting to illegally cross from Mexico into Texas to use ports of entry to protect the lives of migrants, DPS troopers, and Texas National Guard soldiers. Until President Biden reverses his open border policies and does his job to secure the border, Texas will continue protecting Texans and Americans from the chaos along the border."

Since Abbott and company's statement, the DPS confirmed the name of Nicholas Wingate as the trooper whose concerns made it to the Chronicle's pages. ABC13 is gathering information and attempting to reach Wingate for comment.

SEE ALSO: Texas deploys buoys to deter Rio Grande crossings, Abbott announces

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