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DOJ Threatens to Sue Texas Gov. Abbott for Installing Barrels Wrapped in Razor Wire in Rio Grande

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The U.S. Justice Department is threatening to sue the state of Texas after Republican Governor Greg Abbott installed barrels wrapped in razor wire in the Rio Grande in an attempt to block migrants from crossing the river. This comes just after a whistleblower state trooper at the Texas Department of Public Safety recently protested the state’s inhumane policies in a letter to superiors. “What’s happening at the border in Texas right now is criminal,” says Democratic Texas Senator Roland Gutierrez. “There’s state crimes, there’s federal crimes, and there’s international crimes.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. Department of Justice is threatening to sue Texas after Republican Governor Greg Abbott installed barrels wrapped in razor wire in the Rio Grande in an attempt to block migrants from crossing the river and entering the United States. Texas has also placed large coils of razor wire in the river. The Justice Department has given Abbott until 2 p.m. today to begin removing the floating barriers and related structures. Humanitarian workers and local news outlets report numerous migrants, including children, have suffered from lacerations after being cut by the razor wire oftentimes they couldn’t see — it was underwater.

A whistleblower state trooper at the Texas Department of Public Safety recently decried the state’s inhumane policies. In a letter to superiors, Nicholas Wingate wrote, quote, “The wire and barrels in the river needs to be taken out as this is nothing but a in humane trap in high water and low visibility,” he wrote.

Last week, the U.S. Justice Department sent a letter to Texas stating, quote, “The State of Texas’s actions violate federal law, raise humanitarian concerns, present serious risks to public safety and the environment, and may interfere with the federal government’s ability to carry out its official duties,” unquote.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott responded by writing on social media, “Texas has the sovereign authority to defend our border, under the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution.” Abbott went on to say, “We will see you in court, Mr. President.”

We’re joined right now by Democratic Texas state Senator Roland Gutierrez. He recently announced he’ll run against Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, state Senator, at least for now. It’s really important to have you with us on this critical day. Can you talk about these flesh-ripping razor wire barriers in the water and what you think needs to be done at this point?

SEN. ROLAND GUTIERREZ: Well, thank you, Amy, first off.

I mean, it’s obvious that what’s happening on the border is inhumane, as Trooper Wingate suggested, that these people are made in the eyes of God and that no one should have to go through this kind of torture. And it is torture, let’s be very clear. The wire that is in the water cannot be seen. It’s lacerated people. It’s caused problems. And worse yet, Trooper Wingate describes a situation where people have tried to get beyond the buoys and beyond the razor wire, sadly, in deeper parts of the river. He talks about a mom who lost her child underwater. Her and her other child succumbed at that point. They rescued the mom and the daughter, but they, sadly, died at the hospital.

And so, we have to understand that what’s happening at the border in Texas right now is criminal. There’s state crimes, there are federal crimes, and there’s international crimes. We have to understand that what’s happening right now is of such a degree that troopers are acting under the color of law, and that not only are taking people’s rights, but people are dying or being injured very seriously from this. Greg Abbott needs to stop this flippant attitude and understand that what he’s doing is harming people, and nothing he is doing has anything to do with any kind of immigration policy, because they have shown no metrics under Operation Lone Star. It has been stunt after stunt after stunt. And unfortunately, this one is leading into the deaths of migrants and migrant children.

AMY GOODMAN: There were a number of other incidents that were described in the email: the 4-year-old migrant girl and a pregnant woman having a miscarriage found with severe injuries as they crashed into the barbed wire barrels while crossing the river. The young girl had also passed out from heat exhaustion. Wingate also wrote that the migrant mother, as you described, and one of her children drowned. It looks like the other one is not found. A child being pushed back into the water by one of these Border Patrol?

SEN. ROLAND GUTIERREZ: Yes, Amy. I mean, all of those actions that you just described are absolute crimes that need to be prosecuted. I have talked to the local district attorney. As you know, I’ve asked the Justice Department to step in. They have suggested that they’re indeed doing that. They have asked the governor to remove the obstacles in the water.

The Department of Public Safety’s director, Steve McCraw, I spoke to him immediately as these reports came out, which was last Monday. And he suggested there’s going to be an audit. I don’t think he understands the severity of the situation. This is not about an audit. We need to have an investigation as to who gave what commands and when, how high from the Department of Public Safety did those commands come from, who knew about it. He claims, of course, that he didn’t know anything about it. But, you know, any kind of audit or investigation of any sort from this agency is — I just question, because this is the same agency that failed all of those kids in Uvalde, Texas, a year ago, over a year ago, and here yet, we have no accountability from this agency at all in the last year and a half on that incident.

I think that we have to take a very serious look at what’s considered immigration policy and what isn’t. The last two months, we have seen a success in the reimplementation of Title 8, cutting down crossings about down to half. The fact is, Greg Abbott doesn’t want to have that discussion. He simply wants to talk about the chaos that he’s created.

AMY GOODMAN: And you’ve announced you’re running against U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. What role does Cruz play in all this, representing the state of Texas?

SEN. ROLAND GUTIERREZ: Amy, the best I could say is cheerleader, I guess, cheerleader to Greg Abbott. He likes to come down to the border, doesn’t talk about any of the benefits that are happening in the communities on the border, doesn’t talk about trade. He likes to talk about, you know, this invading horde. He scares people with this notion that people are just carrying fentanyl across our borders, which is just simply not true. Fentanyl product is coming in from all sorts of ports of entry across this country. No doubt fentanyl is a problem, and no doubt immigration, to a certain degree, is a problem, but those immigrants are not responsible for the major problems that are happening in Texas in education and healthcare, infrastructure and beyond, and really, quite simply, lack of opportunity.

Ted Cruz has done nothing, nothing to solve this problem, nothing to offer an idea how to solve this immigration problem that we’re having. Luckily, under President Biden’s administration, the last two months, as I said, after the reimplementation of Title 8, we’ve seen border crossings cut in half.

AMY GOODMAN: You are going to run for the U.S. Senate against Ted Cruz, Democratic Texas state Senator Roland Gutierrez, so I wanted to stay on the immigration, because if you are in U.S. Senate, you might be voting on issues, of course, far beyond the borders of Texas, and I wanted to look at Arizona now with a related story.

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