More details emerging about the body found on the Rio Grande buoy barrier

Another body was also found on Thursday three miles up the river.

By Rhonda Fanning & Michael MarksAugust 4, 2023 12:29 pm,

The body of a person believed to have drowned in the Rio Grande was found on the recently installed buoys near Eagle Pass.

The buoys were put in the river as a barrier to migrants, part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s multibillion dollar border security initiative, Operation Lone Star.

Sandra Sanchez, South Texas correspondent for Border Report, spoke to the Texas Standard about the discovery. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Michael Marks: Can you tell us more about the bodies found in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass yesterday? Do we know anything about these people?

Sandra Sanchez: Well, there are reports that the young boy whose body was found upriver is from Honduras, and his mother had been at a shelter in Piedras Negras. That is not confirmed. Those are reports from Mexican media.

And it’s important to note Gov. Abbott is saying that that body was not found close to the border buoys – it was like upstream. The body that was found in the bushes, the Abbott administration is saying likely had drowned and floated in to the string of buoys.

But again, you know, they are doing forensics and we don’t have information on exactly the condition of the body, who the person was, what their nationality was, when they might have died, or if they died from the buoys or previously.

So just to reiterate, it’s not clear whether the buoys themselves were responsible. You mentioned some of the statements made by Gov. Abbott. Could you elaborate a little bit on what his office has said about these deaths?

Right. Well, Abbott’s office says that the buoys are monitored constantly in the river by Texas DPS troopers and other Texas National Guard. And they see as people approach the buoys and that if somebody was floating into a buoy or in distress, they would have noted it.

You know, of course, this is all “one person says” versus “another person says.” What we know is that a body was discovered in the south end of the buoy about 2:30 p.m. and the Mexican consulate was notified by Texas DPS. And that’s what triggered all of this.

Well, you spoke with several organizations who do humanitarian work along the border. What did they have to say?

They remain and are extremely concerned about how the buoys, as well as the razor and concertina wire that’s placed along the banks of the Rio Grande there, are affecting the migrants. They say that it is inhumane to have these migrants try to traverse not only this 1,000 foot long string of buoy in the middle of the river, but the wire on the side of the river.

Also, environmental groups are really concerned about the effects to wildlife from the buoys.

There is netting underneath the buoy and Texas DPS Lt. Chris Olivarez told me that the buoys are actually tethered to the bottom of the Rio Grande river bed with concrete. And so the Rio Grande International Study Center – which is based in Laredo and they study the Rio Grande for drinking water and they track data on it – you know, say this is unprecedented. You don’t put concrete in the middle of the river and what kind of impact is that having to the drinking water for thousands, hundreds of thousands of people in South Texas?

So there are a lot of concerns from there, from many different groups about the placement of these buoys.

I know that the federal government has taken a lot of interest in these buoys. I believe the Department of Justice recently filed a lawsuit against the state, saying that the buoys and other obstacles like razor wire on the riverbanks were illegal. Have they said anything specifically about these apparent drownings that were discovered yesterday?

Now, there’s been no official comment about the drownings.

There will be autopsies. Likely the body will go to the Webb County coroner there. I was just there a couple of weeks ago. There’s a trailer that is still full of bodies in Maverick County and they just don’t have the resources to actually get it to Webb County, which is Laredo, to have these autopsies done.

You know, unfortunately, it is a big problem there. This is a small town. They don’t have a lot of money to spend on this. And, you know, these drownings are a problem.

You mentioned, yes, the federal government has sued the state of Texas to stop this, saying it violates the Safe Harbor law. The International Boundary and Water Commission, which oversees the river for Mexico in the United States, has said “you didn’t get our permission to do this.”

So, you know, there are a lot of other organizations, countries, agencies that are upset about the placement of the buoys. But Gov. Abbott says that Texas needs to defend its borders.

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