NEW YORK – In response to reports that troopers at the U.S.-Mexico border were told to push migrants back into the Rio Grande and to deny them drinking water, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio has admonished that anyone “who denies water to the thirsty is corrupted and a killer.”

“Beautiful America, depriving people [of] water during this waving heat season. There is not anything beautiful about it,” García-Siller said in a July 18 statement. “People are dying of thirst. Jesus taught to give even a glass of water to the thirsty. Jesus keeps calling us to change our hearts and love PEOPLE. Please!”

Two days later, on July 20, García-Siller and the 21 other Texas bishops came together to denounce the actions that have been alleged, saying media reports “present a disturbing account of horrific tragedies occurring along the Rio Grande on the Texas/Mexico border.”

“These reports stir our hearts again for the plight of our sisters and brothers who are seeking a better life,” the bishops said in a statement through the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops. “These mothers, fathers, children, and others are doing what anyone would do to find a better life. They have moved to secure honest work and a safe community.”

“The fact that they were born in a place which could provide these basic human rights does not give anyone the right to treat them inhumanely,” the bishops added.

The allegations, first reported by the Houston Chronicle, come at a time when Texas Governor Greg Abbott has taken it upon himself to attempt to secure the U.S.-Mexico border from illegal entries, as he has long spoken out about the challenges the nation’s migrant surge has posed border cities and the way the federal government has inadequately responded to the crisis.

Abbott’s administration has now set up river buoys along the Rio Grande and razor wire along the adjacent land in an attempt to repel migrant crossings. An internal message a state trooper recently shared with the Houston Chronicle led to the reports that troopers were told to push migrants back into the Rio Grande and to deny them drinking water – claims the Texas Department of Public Safety have denied.

Abbott and Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said in a joint statement on July 18 that “no orders or directions have been given under Operation Lone Star that would compromise the lives of those attempting to cross to the border illegally.”

“All personnel assigned to Operation Lone Star are prepared to detect and respond to any individuals who may need water or medical attention,” the statement reads. “Operation Lone Star agency partners use verbal warnings and signage to direct migrants attempting to illegally cross from Mexico into Texas to use ports of entry to protect the lives of migrants, DPS troopers, and Texas National Guard soldiers.”

The officials added that “until President Biden reverses his open border policies and does his job to secure the border, Texas will continue protecting Texans and Americans from the chaos along the border.”

The Texas Department of Public Safety did not immediately respond to a Crux request for comment, and Abbott’s office declined to comment, citing the July 18 statement.

The White House weighed in on the reports on July 18, as well. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre acknowledged that the White House hasn’t verified the reports, but noted if they are true “it is abhorrent, it is despicable, it is dangerous.”

The Texas bishops, however, didn’t levy all of the blame for the present situation on the state. They put the onus on the federal government for decades of failures when it comes to migration policy, saying “they have failed to uphold our country’s principle to welcome all who seek a life free of tyranny.”

“We have a responsibility, as a faithful citizen, to work with our government officials to ensure the dignity of all, an ideal enshrined on the Statue of Liberty,” the bishops said. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

The bishops also asked the faithful to join them in their humanitarian efforts along the border, and asked for prayers “for our brothers and sisters experiencing the harsh realities of this journey, and for all who encounter them.”

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