Authorities vowed Saturday to continue their search for a Texas National Guard soldier who went missing Friday morning while assigned to a border enforcement mission along the Rio Grande, the Texas Military Department said.
The solider was attempting to assist two migrants who appeared to be drowning in the river, the Texas Military Department said in a Saturday statement. Both are in U.S. Customs and Border Patrol custody and are accused of drug trafficking, the statement says.
A local official had said on Friday the soldier was attempting to help a woman who was struggling in the strong current.
“He jumped in the river,” said Sheriff Tom Schmerber of Maverick County. “They never saw him come out.”
Search and rescue dive operations were paused Friday evening, due to the strength of the current. The search resumed Saturday.
The Texas Rangers, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks and Wildlife and Border Patrol are continuing to investigate.
Powerful currents have created treacherous conditions for people trying to cross the Rio Grande this month, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Earlier this month, a Border Patrol Marine Unit rescued several people who were “swept off their feet” by swiftly moving water, the agency said.
Rescues are common in the river and attempted border crossings can be deadly. Schmerber said it’s common to find bodies of migrants along his county’s section of the river.
The solider was assigned to Operation Lone Star, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s controversial immigration enforcement mission.
The Texas governor’s office is working with the Texas National Guard as they search for the missing soldier, Abbott said on Twitter Friday afternoon.
Friday’s incident comes roughly one year into a ramping up of border enforcement along the Rio Grande as a part of Operation Lone Star.
When Operation Lone Star launched in March 2021, Abbott said, “We will surge the resources and law enforcement personnel needed to confront this crisis,” blaming the Biden administration for policies that he said invited illegal immigration and roiled the border in a growing humanitarian crisis.
A central focus of Operation Lone Star was the arrest and detention of people crossing the border. The effort has been strongly criticized for militarizing the border and interfering with immigration enforcement, a federal responsibility.
Guardsmen themselves have also voiced a litany of complaints about poor conditions during their mission, including massive COVID-19 outbreaks.
Contributing: Tony Plohetski, Chuck Lindell and Katie Hall, Austin American-Statesman; The Associated Press
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