Governor Greg Abbott’s buoys show his limitless cruelty

The death of the young Honduran man, Norlan Bayardo Herrera, just twenty years old, in the buoy wall that Texas Governor Greg Abbott placed in the Río Grande to deter undocumented immigrants in their route to the United States, is a tragic reminder of something that political demagogues like him have not begun to understand. That is, put what they will at the border, those undocumented people who, for the most part, are fleeing the horrors of hunger, violence, gangs, unemployment, and zero opportunities, and whose journey has been a real nightmare, are not going to be deterred by a wall made of iron, concrete, or buoys in water.

Indeed, it seems that anti-immigrant people like Abbott and his followers, who continue to use the language of racism and intolerance, don’t understand that the only thing stronger than the materials used to make their deadly traps, is the determination of migrants to keep their families safe, at any cost.

Abbott’s deadly floating wall is also a sordid reminder of what a politician is capable of doing in order to keep his anti-immigrant base happy, and therefore maintain power. In the governor’s case this is essentially sadism, as they are not just plastic buoys. They are wrapped in metal, and between each buoy there’s a piece of sharp metal that resembles a saw blade; not to mention the razor wire that adorns the shore of the Río Grande on the Texas side, and has been reinforced in recent days.

These decisions by Abbott, full of hatred and malevolence to the “other,” the different, call to mind dark episodes of history, like when they invited torture instruments and capital punishment to subdue and instill terror toward others, with the goal of dissuading them from committing any attempt to “contravene order.” Abbott’s new inquisitorial epiphany at the border should be enough to call the governor to account, for risking the lives of those who seek refuge in the country that has boasted of having open arms to the downtrodden since its founding. At any rate, what Abbott is doing is violating the human rights of those who have literally lost everything but hope, an aspiration the governor does not seem to understand.

To that, in a recent article published by CNN, Doctor Brian Elmore, emergency medicine residency physician in El Paso, Texas, reflected on what he had seen while tending to migrants who arrive badly injured at the hospital where he works: “Many of the injuries sustained along the border—heat stroke from the hot desert sun, fractured skulls or spines after falling off the border wall, flesh torn by razor wire along the banks of the Rio Grande—are what I call political pathologies, preventable injuries that are a direct result of border policies intended to enact a high cost on those who attempt to cross over.”

He adds, “And every day I am confronted with the human costs of these pathologies. I see and treat victims who are left permanently debilitated, with devastating injuries that will limit their ability to work and contribute to society and to their families.”

That is, ordering the placement of buoys wrapped in metal and razor wire along the shore of the river, knowing that it will wound, mutilate, and in the worst of all cases, provoke the death of migrants, reflects a high level of cruelty and a total disdain for human life. But we already know that the lives of poor people and people of color don’t have the same value as others for Abbott, and many Republicans like him. And there are those who will say that every country has the right to guard its borders, but in this case it is not about that, because Abbott is usurping federal authority and has no right at all to hang his deadly buoys in the river. In fact, the federal government asked him to remove them and, when he did not, sued the state.

With this attitude, the governor is also showing that he doesn’t understand the importance and bravery of the new generations of migrants in a country that has been fortified, throughout its entire existence as a nation, by migration waves that made it into one of the world superpowers, bar none. Texas, certainly, has been one of the states that benefited the most from these circumstances, especially on economic terrain.

But Abbott’s cruelty has intensified. It’s no longer enough for him to put people seeking asylum on buses and leave them, in the middle of freezing or hot temperatures, to chance in cities led by Democrats. Or ally himself with this evil twin—the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis—in the migrant flights from Texas to Democratic cities. Thousands of migrants have been used by both of them in this perverse political game, and their collaboration continues.

In his trip to Eagle Pass, Texas, in June, DeSantis declared, using white supremacist rhetoric, that “For decades, leaders from both parties have produced empty promises on border security, and now it is time to act to stop the invasion once and for all.”

But the reality is that if the Republicans were so worried about border security, they would not have torpedoed, for decades, attempts to reform the migration system and designate visas needed in diverse areas, whether it be employment, family reunification, increasing the quotas for refugees, and many other programs that allow migrants to arrive in a safe and orderly way, without risking their own lives. Having not done this, their anti-immigrant rhetoric today sounds empty and hypocritical, on top of confirming their ideological sadism that is currently costing migrants their lives.

Because the goal for people like Abbott is not to solve the problem, but to keep it alive in order to continue exploiting it for political reasons, with his spectacle of floating walls and all—throwing away the lives of migrants like Norlan.


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