Leaked emails allege Texas patrol agents were ordered to push migrants into Rio Grande. What we know.

Texas border control policies are being heavily criticized after a state trooper said employees were told to push migrants "back into the water" of the Rio Grande when they reach the American side of the river as part of Gov. Greg Abbott's border security initiative.

The criticisms come after reports were published late Monday by Hearst Newspapers quoting an email sent by one trooper from the Texas Department of Public Safety and backed up by another that migrants' lives were being put in danger by Abbott's Operation Lone Star.

According to a January press release, Operation Lone Star has "led to over 340,000 illegal immigrant apprehensions and more than 23,000 criminal arrests, with more than 21,000 felony charges reported" since the program's start in March 2021.

Here's what we know about the situation in Texas so far.

What did the email from the state trooper contain?

The trooper, who is a medic and made it clear in the email to his superior that he supports the aims of the initiative, listed several incidents in the Del Rio area in late June and early July during in which migrants were distressed.

Those events included injured children, a pregnant woman who miscarried and many others not given water or proper medical care despite intense heat.

He also noted that five migrants drowned in the river and that others were injured by the razor wire installed by Texas along the Rio Grande.

"I truly believe in the mission of Operation Lone Star; I believe we have stepped over a line into the inhumane," Trooper Nicholas Wingate said in his email to a Texas Department of Public Safety sergeant. "We need to operate it correctly in the eyes of God. We need to recognize that these are people who are made in the image of God and need to be treated as such."

In a follow-up email, Trooper Brandon Tinsley corroborated the account.

"Trooper Wingate is the author of this recap, but together we discussed its contents and I fully co-sign the message," Tinsley wrote. 

More:What to know about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's floating buoy barrier along Rio Grande

How has Gov. Abbott responded to the allegations?

In a news release Tuesday afternoon, Abbott insisted no policies have been implemented that would lead to the mistreatment of people attempting to cross without legal authorization.

"No orders or directions have been given under Operation Lone Star that would compromise the lives of those attempting to cross the border illegally," Abbott said. "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."

The release was a joint statement from Abbott, Texas Border Czar Mike Banks, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw and Texas Adjutant General Major General Thomas Suelzer.

Meanwhile, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Travis Considine said the agency's Office of Inspector General was investigating the allegationsConsidine also released an email from McCraw reminding his chain of command that frontline officers at the border cannot ignore migrants who are at risk, even if they crossed the river without legal authorization.

"The priority of life requires that we rescue migrants from harm, and we will continue to do so," McCraw said in the directive issued on the afternoon of July 11. "In fact, Texas Troopers and Texas National Guard Soldiers have saved the lives of numerous migrants at the risk of their own safety, and one soldier died during a water rescue attempt."

Texas Democrats react after Rio Grande reports circulate

The Texas Democratic congressional delegation Tuesday condemned the reports stating that Texas state troopers have been ordered to push migrants back into The Rio Grande.

Several of the lawmakers in the virtual news conference from Washington also expressed frustration that the Democratic Biden administration has not asserted its federal authority and has allowed the Republican governor to effectively set immigration policy in Texas.

"I think, in short, the administration simply needs to tell Greg Abbott to get out of the way," said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin, who was among a dozen Democrats participating in the event.

The congressional Democrats continued their criticism that they have aired since the border initiative was launched two years ago but said the stepped-up policies by the three-term Republican governor that include installing floating barriers in the international river are both illegal and inhumane.

"We're asking for Greg Abbott to cease operation of his Operation Lone Star until these claims can be fully investigated and can be rectified," said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, the organizer of the call. "This should not be policy or practice of the state of Texas for the Department of Public Safety."

Migrants join hands as they cross the Rio Grande near the site where large buoys are being deployed to be used as a border barrier in Eagle Pass on July 12. The floating barrier is being deployed in an effort to block migrants from entering Texas from Mexico.

The trooper report comes after buoys began to be installed in Eagle Pass, Texas, intended to become an extra barrier for migrants to pass through.

This initiative also earned Abbott criticism, with U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar of El Paso writing a letter last week asking the U.S. Justice and State departments to examine whether installation of buoys is legal under federal law and international treaties.

More:Feds: Texas didn't get permits to build barriers at US-Mexico borderThe Democratic lawmakers also pressed on whether the Biden administration was, in effect, ceding federal authority to Abbott, who has been among the nation's leading critics of post-Trump immigration policies.

"The president has the ability to make a public statement of complete disagreement and disdain when loss of life of children, babies and others are (in play)," said U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston. "I think he'd have a lot of support (from my) fellow Texans."

Other political figures respond to border allegations

The Hearst report set off a firestorm in Texas and in Washington. Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said the actions cited in the trooper's email are "reprehensible" and "denigrates" the lives of migrants.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters the actions were "abhorrent."

"It is despicable. It is dangerous," she said. "And we’re talking about the bedrock values of who we are as a country.”

Beto O'Rourke: 'Crickets' from Biden

While Jean-Pierre made no mention of federal authority to set immigration enforcement policies and procedures, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso, who unsuccessfully challenged Abbott's reelection last year, did.

"There is one person who has the power to stop Abbott," O'Rourke said in a tweet. "Mr. President, we need you to act."

In an interview later, O'Rourke amplified his disappointment with President Joe Biden on immigration, saying he has heard only "crickets" from the White House on Abbott's actions at the border.

"The president, who has all the power in the world and constitutionally is vested with the authority to enforce our immigration laws and to manage our international boundary with Mexico, and his administration, as far as any of us can tell, is not doing a single thing," O'Rourke said. "And that would be bad enough on its own, but now that we know clearly that people are dying, he absolutely has to act, and he has to do that now. It is urgent."

Even border region activists who vehemently opposed the hardline policies during the Trump administration and cheered Biden's early rollbacks said they are disappointed that the Democratic administration appears to be deferring to the Texas governor.

"It's pretty baffling to us," said Tricia Cortez, who runs the Rio Grande International Study Center in Laredo. "Because any governmental body — if this city or if a private rancher or if a company wanted to do anything like that in the river — you can't just do whatever you want. There are regulations and policies. It's a source of drinking water and an international boundary."

Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador reacts

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Wednesday that he did not believe that troopers were told to push the migrants back into the Rio Grande.

“[Pushing migrants] I don’t believe, it would be barbarity. It’s extreme, it’s inhuman, it’s extermination. I don’t believe it,” he said at a morning press conference.Lopez Obrador said Texas aided in fomenting the "hatred of the migrant."

“The conservative politicians in the United States keep using that anti-immigrant strategy because they think they are going to obtain votes that way. We are going to continue denouncing all of those anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican policies,” he said.

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