Dangerous border policies are nothing new – but we cannot turn away

Washington, DC – Throughout July, Governor Abbott intensified his illegal policing of the southern border, deploying buoys with saw blades and razor wire in an effort to deter migrants from seeking safety in the United States. Already, his actions have had life-changing and even deadly consequences. A Texas trooper whistle blower reported the dangers of the razor wire, including a woman who became trapped and had an active miscarriage while in the wire. The trooper also reported that they had been instructed to push migrants back into the river and to deny them water.

More recent reports indicate that Governor Abbott is engaging in a family separation policy, with over two dozen families having their fathers removed. Tragically, Mexican authorities recovered the bodies of two migrants from the Rio Grande, including one who was entangled in the buoys themselves.

While the US Department of Justice has sued Texas over its floating barrier, Abbott’s actions are part of a broader ecosystem of increasingly hostile and violent anti-immigrant policies. Governor DeSantis of Florida shared his support for the use of deadly force against suspected traffickers, though gave no indication as to how to tell them apart from migrants seeking safety – other than vague promises that the officials would just be able to know.

So-called ‘deterrence measures’ for migrants do nothing but increase the likelihood of injury, exploitation, or death. Even prior to the Trump administration, the Sonoran desert was used as a weapon itself, “sabotaging humanitarian aid efforts and discriminating against undocumented people in emergency responses.” Activists repeatedly documented CPB agents vandalizing life-saving water jugs intended for migrants. One video captured an agent smiling while dumping water onto the ground.

These violent hardline policies – including Trump’s stated desire to bomb drug labs in Mexico –  are grounded in dehumanizing, nativist rhetoric. But now many locals, faced with the realities of Abbott’s policies, are having a change of heart. Magali Urbina of Eagle Pass had voted for Governor Abbott and is now questioning his policies after having witnessed a “pregnant woman cross the Rio Grande and push her way through the concertina wire,” covered in blood, with CBP officers moving in to arrest her.

Although the vastness and remoteness of the desert and other border crossing points may make it easy to lose sight of the motivating animus behind these dangerous policies, it is impossible to ignore the brutality of Abbott’s recent measures.

The Biden administration must pursue a thorough and public investigation of Abbott’s policies, take emergency action to protect vulnerable migrants, and disavow any border policy that increases the risk to life.


RCUSA is a diverse coalition advocating for just and humane laws and policies, and the promotion of dialogue and communication among government, civil society, and those who need protection and welcome. Individual RCUSA members do not all address all refugee-related issues, nor do all individual members approach common refugee-related issues identically