DOJ says it’s assessing the situation along the Texas-Mexico border amid ‘troubling reports’ over migrant treatment

CNN Newsource Pristine Villarreal

(CNN) — The Justice Department is assessing the situation along the Texas-Mexico border following reports that Texas troopers were told to push back migrants into the Rio Grande and ordered not to give them water, calling those reports “troubling” in a statement to CNN.

The Justice Department’s statement is the first public acknowledgment that the department is assessing the situation but falls short of opening an investigation. An assessment could be the first step toward an investigation.

“The department is aware of the troubling reports, and we are working with DHS and other relevant agencies to assess the situation,” DOJ spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa told CNN.

In a Tuesday joint statement with other Texas top officials, including Department of Public Safety Chief Steve McCraw, Gov. Greg Abbott’s office said there have been no orders or directions given under Operation Lone Star that “would compromise the lives of those attempting to cross the border illegally.”

The Biden administration has repeatedly criticized Abbott’s actions along the US southern border and his decision to transport migrants to Democratic-led cities without coordination. CNN previously reported that the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department were in ongoing discussions about what actions could be taken against the state.

“This is just about political theater for him. This is not really dealing with this issue. It’s about creating more chaos. It’s about creating more confusion at the border. That’s what he wants to do. That’s what he chooses to do. And that’s not what we want to do,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters in May.

Internal discussions about legal action against Texas date back to last year, when Abbott began sending migrants to cities nationwide without alerting them and have continued with the deployment of buoys in the Rio Grande, which pose a potential drowning risk to migrants and now, concern over the treatment of migrants.

Texas is already facing a lawsuit against its installation of a marine floating barrier. The owner of a Texas canoe and kayaking company filed the lawsuit earlier this month on the same day that Texas started deploying buoys for the barrier in an attempt to deter migrant crossings on the river along the US-Mexico border.

That suit lists the state of Texas and Abbott, as well as the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard.

It’s unclear whether the administration will take legal action against Texas, and officials have stressed that border agents have historically worked closely with Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

But it wouldn’t mark the first time the Justice Department has sued on border-related matters. Last year, the Justice Department sued Arizona for placing shipping containers along the US southern border – a move taken by then-Republican Gov. Doug Ducey as an affront to Biden’s immigration policies. Arizona eventually agreed to remove the containers.

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