Texas National Guard Policy Against Rescuing Drowning Migrants Draws Fire

Following the death of a National Guardsman who drowned trying to save two migrants from a river, the Texas Military Department is now allegedly advising soldiers against performing water rescues.

This comes after the death in late April of National Guard Specialist Bishop Evans, who went missing along the Rio Grande River while attempting to rescue two drowning migrants. After an intense search, Evans' body was found in the river and the Texas Military Department stated that he did not have the proper water rescue equipment, which may have led to his death.

Rio Grande River
Texas National Guardsmen are allegedly not allowed to save drowning migrants. Above, razor wire lines the area near the Rio Grande river on November 19, 2021, in Eagle Pass, Texas. Getty Images

This week, in a graphic video posted on Monday, a Fox News reporter recorded a Nicaraguan man drowning while trying to cross the Rio Grande River. The clip shows dozens of onlookers watching the man struggle without any help.

Reporter Bryan Llenas said Mexican authorities and National Guard service members witnessed the drowning but did not go into the water as other migrants yelled for them to help the man. Llenas said service members told him they had orders not to perform water rescues after Evans' death in the same river.

Newsweek reached out to the Texas Military Department to confirm the order was given to soldiers.

They said, "For their own safety, all Service Members assigned to security points along the border are not authorized to enter the water. TMD has distributed bagged throw ropes to all security points near water. These devices are designed for use from land to support preservation of life as required. Training for the use of these devices will occur over the coming weeks."

Laura Peña, director of the Beyond Borders program at the Texas Civil Rights Project, told the Army Times that officials giving troops orders not to rescue drowning migrants "sends the message that migrants' lives are not worth saving."

"It's really very, very sad to think that the state of Texas has such little regard for people's lives who are at risk," Peña said. "They're risking everything to seek protection, safety, the American dream."

A report from the Texas Military Department last week revealed that it lacks water rescue equipment for soldiers.

"The incident is still under investigation, however, we do not believe SPC Evans had a floatation device at the time of death," the Texas Military Department told the Army Times Tuesday. "We only received about 25 percent of the requested equipment due to delays from the vendor and global supply chain issues."

While the Nicaraguan man drowned Monday, the Fox reporter noted that the servicemen did have rescue devices at hand as well as two rescue kyaks. However, none were used to save the man.

Democrat State Representative Ray Lopez, who served 14 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, said asking troops not to rescue someone in need goes against what the servicemen signed up to do, protect.

"You don't want to ask anybody that's a first responder to do something above and beyond what it is that you have trained them and equipped them for," Lopez said to the Army Times. "To me, that's the fallacy, that's the problem. That's the big sin."