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Correspondent describes reports of mistreatment of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The Texas Department of Public Safety is investigating claims of mistreatment of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. The investigation was launched after a state trooper alleged that superiors at the border in Eagle Pass, Texas, told officers to push migrants back into the Rio Grande River and deny them water. A spokesperson for the department confirmed the investigation before adding that there's no official directive that would instruct the alleged treatment. For more on this, we're joined by Aaron Torres. He's the Austin bureau correspondent for the Dallas Morning News and has been covering this story. Good morning.

AARON TORRES: Good morning.

FADEL: Aaron, if you could just start by telling us more about the allegations made by this state trooper.

TORRES: Sure. So the state trooper was stationed at the Eagle Pass region of the southern border. And he said in an email sent earlier this month on July 3 that while he was stationed there, that officials were giving out orders to push migrants back into the Rio Grande River, that they were ordered not to give some water and that he also came across a 19-year-old pregnant woman who was stuck in razor wire and undergoing a miscarriage. And he was really very concerned in that email, you know, writing that the Operation Lone Star had crossed into the inhumane.

FADEL: Inhumane. I mean, what you're describing, if true, does sound inhumane. How have Texas DPS and state officials responded to these allegations?

TORRES: So DPS launched an investigation by their inspector general's office to see if any of the allegations he said are true. The spokesperson for DPS said that DPS does not have a policy that would deny migrants water. So he said that it's wrong for DPS to have a policy like that. And now DPS is going to look into if any of the other allegations raised by this trooper are true. Officials - or lawmakers in Texas - Democrats are obviously very outraged at the allegations. Interestingly, though, Republicans have not really condemned any of the allegations. Some have. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said that the allegations are troubling. Other Republicans, though, seem to be doubling down on the - Governor Greg Abbott's border security operation and the allegations, they have not commented and said that - some of them have not commented and said that they're troubled by the allegations.

FADEL: A question, though, you talked about how there is no policy to deny water, but what about pushing people into the river and these types of things? I mean, does this also go against policy for DPS - Department of Public Safety - in Texas?

TORRES: I believe so. The spokesperson for DPS, when I spoke to him a few days ago after receiving these emails, said that these kind of policies would fly against the Department of Public Safety and that if any policies were broken or that if these allegations are true, that this likely would violate department policy.

FADEL: Now, you mentioned that some Republicans are doubling down or not condemning the allegations. And I wanted to talk about Operation Lone Star, which you mentioned, Texas Governor Greg Abbott's hard-line border crackdown. How does that factor in here?

TORRES: So Operation Lone Star is a new policy Governor Greg Abbott instituted about two years ago to try to curb the rise of undocumented immigrants coming over the southern border. And really, that operation is stretched now into two years using National Guard troops - Texas National Guard troops and Department of Public Safety officers to arrest migrants and detain migrants at the southern border.

FADEL: Dallas Morning News correspondent Aaron Torres, thank you for your time.

TORRES: No, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.

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