The identity of the National Guard member who went missing near the Rio Grande on Friday has been released by the Texas Military Department. The guard, specialist Bishop E. Evans, 22, is feared drowned, though authorities are still looking for him.
Specialist Evans is missing “after his selfless efforts to rescue two migrants who appeared to drown while crossing the river from Mexico to the US,” the department said in a statement on Sunday.
Specialist Evans is a field gunner from Arlington, Texas, who was part of a regiment in New Braunfels, the department said. His career has included service in Kuwait and Iraq, where he supported Special Operations Forces for a time. According to the statement, he joined the National Guard three years ago.
Officials said Specialist Evans had been near the Rio Grande as part of a mission, Operation Lone Star, ordered by Governor Greg Abbott to reduce illegal border crossings. The Texas military department said on Saturday that the two migrants that Specialist Evans tried to rescue were drug traffickers and had survived. They were held in custody by the US Border Patrol, the department said.
Authorities began an exhaustive search for the guard on Friday morning, the department said. The multi-day search was halted over the weekend when the river’s currents made it impossible for dive teams to enter the river. The search was resumed on Sunday morning. The Texas Rangers are leading the effort and are collaborating with several other government agencies.
The Rio Grande is considered by experts to be a treacherous river to cross. Maverick County, where Mr. Evans served, has recently seen about two drownings a week, according to Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber, who is also a former U.S. Border Patrol officer.
The incident with specialist Evans comes amid a sweltering political debate between Mr Abbott and President Biden over immigration policy. Most recently, Mr Abbott has criticized the White House after it announced it would repeal Title 42 next month, a pandemic-era immigration policy that allowed migrants to be turned away at the border.
Federal officials have been preparing for an influx of as many as 18,000 migrants a day after Title 42 ends. On Friday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration over its decision to end the Title 42 trial, seeking an emergency injunction to keep the policy in place.