‘We need more body bags’: Texas rep paints grim picture of border deaths


A Texas congressman whose district covers much of the state’s border with Mexico claimed Thursday that county officials are asking for more body bags to keep up with the rising death toll among illegal immigrants trying to reach the US.

“My [county] judges are asking for one thing in particular,” Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) told Newsmax. “I sit in front of them and I go, ‘If I can do one thing for you, what would that be?’ And this is the ask I’m getting. They go, ‘Tony, we need more body bags.’ And I’m going, ‘Body bags? Why do you need body bags?’ They go, ‘Migrants are dying at record numbers, and we don’t have body bags to handle the situation.’

“That’s what is happening on the ground,” Gonzales added.

The migration crisis along the southwestern border shows little sign of slowing down. On Wednesday, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that they had stopped more than 180,000 illegal immigrants attempting to cross the frontier last month, the most in a single month since April of 2000. May also marked the third consecutive month of more than 170,000 apprehensions by CBP, the first time that has happened since January-April 2000.

Rep. Tony Gonzales discussed how many migrants are dying at the border.
Rep. Tony Gonzales discussed how many migrants are dying at the border.
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Though historical trends indicate the number of illegal immigrants attempting to cross the border will slowly decrease in the summer months, officials are warning that more who do attempt the crossing will not make it.

Webb County (Texas) Medical Examiner Dr. Corinne Stern, who tracks illegal immigrant deaths in 12 South Texas counties, told CNN Wednesday that 128 migrants had died so far in those counties this year, more than triple the number that had died at the same point last year (45).

“Typically our busiest months are July and August,” Stern said. “We’re not even there yet.”

Central American migrants are being apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents after crossing the Rio Grande.
Central American migrants apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents after crossing the Rio Grande.
Go Nakamura/Reuters

All or part of six of the counties in Stern’s jurisdiction lie within Gonzales’ district, which stretches over 29 counties from Western San Antonio to the outskirts of El Paso and covers more than 800 miles of the border.

Gonzales is a frequent critic of the Biden administration’s handling of the border crisis and described Vice President Kamala Harris’ refusal to visit the border region Thursday as “disrespectful.”

“It’s disrespectful to districts like mine, it’s disrespectful to the people that live and work along the border that are having to deal with this crisis every single day …,” he said. “No member of Congress has been on the border more than I have. I’ve hosted 25 members, and I’ve never gotten any word from the vice president, or anyone from the administration, that wants to take any interest in what is happening.”

Harris’ two-day visit to Guatemala and Mexico to discuss diplomatic issues related to the migration crisis was overshadowed by a defensive interview she gave to Lester Holt of NBC News, in which she responded to the criticism that she had never been to the border by saying: “And I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”

There has been a surge of migrants toward the southern US border in 2021.
There has been a surge of migrants toward the southern US border in 2021.
Adrees Latif/Reuters

On Thursday, Gonzales claimed the administration “has no interest in solving this border crisis.”

“Congress needs to lead again,” he said. “Congress needs to come together and find a way to solve this issue, because folks are tired of it. It’s unfair to everybody. It’s unfair to the law enforcement … it’s unfair to the citizens that are seeing these record number of migrants, and it’s unfair to the migrants. You know, these migrants are making very dangerous treks, and here’s the thing: The temperature is getting hotter, so it’s only gonna be more dangerous.”

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