Mass Drowning of Migrants in Rio Grande Spurs Calls for Immigration Reform

Saturday’s advocacy call to Congress was made after at least nine migrants died trying to cross the swollen Rio Grande between Mexico and Texas earlier this week..

According to reports, 37 migrants were rescuedWhile eight people are trying to cross the river near Eagle Pass, on Thursday, missing. Rick Pauza, spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), stated in a statement that federal and regional authorities continue to search the area for survivors.

CBP stated that 53 migrants were detained by US authorities at the scene while 39 were taken into custody by Mexican counterparts.

“My heart goes out to the families that have lost loved ones during their tragic journey to the U.S.,” tweeted Rep. Jesús “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill.) in response to the drownings. “This is an unfortunate reminder that we must prioritize our immigration laws along with the socio-economic policies that fuel displacement and migration.”

Ieva Jusionyte, a professor of international security and anthropology at Brown University’s Watson Institute, wrote that “our border policies continue to kill.”

“Hardened borders are deadly,” concurredRuthie Epstein is a former deputy director for immigration policy at ACLU.

The National Immigration Forum is a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization. tweeted, “This heartbreaking tragedy highlights once again the need for Congress to act and pass immigration reforms.”

“Congress must act quickly to pass solutions that bring compassion and security to our border, in the names of human lives and human dignity,” the group added.

According to The New York Times:

Manuel Mello from Eagle Pass was the fire chief. He said that fierce currents had swept several migrants downstream as they tried crossing about a mile to the south of the international bridge. According to the chief, a Eagle Pass native of 58, drownings are a common occurrence along that border section. Usually, there are one or two per day.

About two months ago, he said, 12 bodies were recovered on the same day—six by the Mexican authorities and six by U.S. rescue officials—after another large group tried to cross into the United States.

He said that two boys, one aged 3 years and the other three months, fell from the uncle’s hands while they attempted to cross the river. The older boy drowned. The infant was taken to a San Antonio hospital, where he was in critical condition.

Belying Republican claims that President Joe Biden’s “open border” policies are to blame for tragedies like the Eagle Pass drownings and the fatal asphyxiation53 people were seated in a tractor-trailer at San Antonio in June. Reuters investigation published earlier this year noted that “migrants have increasingly turned to riskier methods of entering the U.S. as enforcement policies along the border have strengthened.”

According to the Reuters report, there have been more than 1,000 border fatalities during Biden’s tenure, both on land and in the river.

“The Rio Grande is treacherous unless you know the safe crossing points,” said MondoweissJames North, editor. “Migrants should be able to cross at ports of entry and request asylum.”

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, director of policy at the advocacy group American Immigration Council, noted that “migrants who try to go to the Eagle Pass port of entry and seek asylum have been completely turned away since March 2020, and largely turned away since April 2018.”

“With the ports of entry shut except in limited circumstances, desperate people feel like they have no other options,” he added.

In May, a federal judge issued this order injunctionBlocking the Biden administration’s lifting of Title 42, a public order for public health first invoked under the Trump administration. Both presidents used Title 42 to deport approximately two million asylum-seekers under pretext of the Covid-19 Pandemic.