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Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro says Gov. Greg Abbott's immigration policies are inhumane

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The Department of Justice plans to sue Texas after Governor Greg Abbott refused to remove razor wire and buoys installed by the state to deter migrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Medics say the barriers are severely injuring people, including pregnant women and children. Brian Elmore is an emergency medicine resident based in El Paso.

BRIAN ELMORE: All the injuries we see - they're a direct consequence of political decisions our leaders have made, our - to make the border as dangerous as possible, to try to deter asylum-seekers and migrants from pursuing, you know, their right to advocate for their own asylum.

FADEL: In response to the planned DOJ lawsuit, the governor tweeted, we will see you in court, Mr. President. Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro is sounding alarms about Abbott's border policies. He spoke with our co-host, A Martínez.

JOAQUIN CASTRO: We've seen what they're doing. There was a pregnant woman that got caught up in the wire and miscarried. There was a 4-year-old girl who was about to pass out. And instead of bringing her in, DPS troopers pushed her back into the water per the directives of DPS leadership. And so Greg Abbott's policies are barbaric and inhumane. And this is in the context of the fact that migration border crossings have decreased by 70% since Title 42 ended in the last few months.

A MARTÍNEZ, BYLINE: Is there any validity to the argument that people shouldn't be in the water and the buoys keep people out of the river and directs them to ports of entry?

CASTRO: The desperation of these people to reach the United States so that they can claim asylum by any means - their desperation is much greater than the hatred that Greg Abbott has for these asylum-seekers. And by the way, we've seen this behavior throughout American history. It's not something that's new to this period in time. This has happened with people from all over the world who have sought to make it to America to ask for asylum.

MARTÍNEZ: You mentioned a report based on an email from a Texas Department of Public Safety officer and a medic in Eagle Pass that claims that, as you said, there - people are being pushed back into the water by Texas state troopers and National Guard members, and also that they're being denied water during a heat wave. How do you want federal officials to respond to that report?

CASTRO: Well, many of us asked the Department of Justice and the Biden administration to intervene, to stop these barbaric actions. And so I'm encouraged that this week, the DOJ plans to take Greg Abbott to court if the governor doesn't stop doing what he's doing.

MARTÍNEZ: You mentioned border crossings into Texas decreasing. What do you attribute to that?

CASTRO: Because we've got a more orderly process right now for folks who want to seek asylum. And remember, there was this - a lot of fearmongering by folks like Greg Abbott and others about what would happen after Title 42 ended, and that - those numbers never bore out. It never came to be. In fact, the governor has gotten so ugly in his rhetoric, and Texas Republicans and others have gotten so ugly, that they have called this an invasion. And that has set an awful tone. And you see the effect of that, is people carrying out these barbaric practices.

MARTÍNEZ: What more would you like to see or hear from President Biden on this?

CASTRO: Well, I still think the president should say something. I know the White House press secretary condemned it, and the DOJ has now threatened legal action, but it's important for the president of the United States to condemn it himself. And I think to not do so, to not say anything, is a real failure.

MARTÍNEZ: Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro represents Texas's 20th congressional district. Congressman, thanks.

CASTRO: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF WILL BATES' "PALIMPSEST") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.