MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican authorities said Thursday that a Honduran migrant identified one of the two bodies recovered from the Rio Grande as her son.
But the 20-year-old Honduran man was not the body found near a floating barrier that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had installed in the river, across from Eagle Pass, Texas.
Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said a body recovered about 3 miles upriver from the buoys was tentatively identified as the Honduran man by his mother, but the body was badly decomposed and fingerprint tests would be needed for confirmation.
The department said the mother, who is at a migrant shelter in Piedras Negras, the Mexican border town across from Eagle Pass, said she recognized the tattoos on the body as her son’s.
It said there was still no word on the identity of the second person whose body was found in the river near the buoys. The department said no identification had been found on the body, and nobody had come forward to report the victim.
The Coahuila state prosecutor’s office is working to positively identify the bodies and determine the cause of death.
The department reported the first body found along the buoys between Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras on Wednesday evening, and immediately connected it to the risks Mexico had warned of before the barrier was installed.
Mexico said the Texas Department of Public Safety had advised its consulate of the body along the floating barrier. But it was unclear if that was the body that ultimately ended up lodged against the buoys by the force of the river.
“Preliminary information suggests this individual drowned upstream from the marine barrier and floated into the buoys,” said Steve McCraw, the DPS director. “There are personnel posted at the marine barrier at all times in case any migrants try to cross.”
Mexico and others have warned about the risks posed by the bright orange, wrecking ball-sized buoys put on the Rio Grande in an effort to make it more difficult for migrants to cross to the U.S. The Foreign Relations Department also contends the barrier violates treaties regarding the use of the river and Mexico’s sovereignty.
Texas installs buoys and razor wire on US-Mexico border
“We made clear our concern about the impact on migrants’ safety and human rights that these state policies would have,” the department said in its statement Wednesday night.
Andrew Mahaleris, spokesman for Abbott, said in a statement Thursday that “the Mexican government is flat-out wrong.” He said preliminary information indicates the person drowned before coming near the barriers.
He said the Texas Department of Public Safety previously reported to U.S. immigration agents that there was a body floating upstream from the barriers in the Rio Grande.
Mahaleris said Texas officers monitor the barriers and have not observed anyone attempting to cross since they were installed. “Unfortunately, drownings in the Rio Grande by people attempting to cross illegally are all too common,” he said.
The barrier was installed in July, and stretches roughly the length of three soccer fields. It is designed to make it more difficult for migrants to climb over or swim under the barrier.
The U.S. Justice Department is suing Abbott over the floating barrier. The lawsuit asks a court to force Texas to remove it. The Biden administration says the barrier raises humanitarian and environmental concerns.
The buoys are the latest escalation of Texas’ border security operation that also includes installing razor-wire fencing and arresting migrants on trespassing charges.
Migrant drownings occur regularly on the Rio Grande. Over the Fourth of July weekend, before the buoys were installed, four people, including an infant, drowned in the river near Eagle Pass.
Isabel Turcios, a nun who runs the Casa del Migrante shelter in Piedras Negras, said migrants continue crossing the river there even though authorities put razor wire under the bridge connecting the two countries and the buoy barrier a little farther downstream.
She said they typically cross under the bridge where the river is more shallow and then walk downstream to an opening in the razor wire. She said she didn’t know if people still tried to cross where the buoys were installed downriver.
“Tons of migrants are still arriving,” Turcios said. “Last night some 200 people slept (at the shelter). This morning 50 more have entered the shelter.”
She said many migrants decide to cross because they feel it takes too long for U.S. authorities to process applications to enter the U.S. legally.
She said her shelter was receiving a lot of Venezuelans, in many cases mothers with children, who stop only briefly to bathe, rest and then try to cross the river.
González reported from McAllen, Texas. Associated Press writer Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.