A Cynical Shell Game

The Biden administration's sudden concern for the Rio Grande’s Mexican fawnsfoot mussel

By Todd Bensman on August 14, 2023
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

(See related article in the Daily Mail.)

AUSTIN, Texas – For nearly 30 months, White House border policies that have lured millions of foreign nationals to illegal river crossings have turned long stretches of the Rio Grande border into a disgusting, trash-clogged environmental sewer on both sides.

All without the slightest protest from American environmentalists or the supposedly environment-protecting Biden White House.

But now, all of a sudden, President Joe Biden’s government and environmental groups are asking Americans to believe they actually care very deeply about the Rio Grande’s environmental health.

Don’t believe it. Biden’s U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s proposal to extend Endangered Species Act protections to a riverbed mussel called the Mexican fawnsfoot mussel is really a cynical shell game designed to keep the border open to the real environmental threat: polluting, damaging illegal immigration in unprecedented numbers.

Why here and why now, 30 long years of action-less consideration since a 1991 notice in the Federal Register that the mussel should be studied for possible protection? It just so happens that some remaining populations of the Mexican fawnsfoot mussel survive at Eagle Pass, Texas, right where Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott has planted the first 1,000 feet of a floating marine barrier to help block one of the most heavily trammeled illegal-immigrant crossings between Mexico and Texas these days.

Illegal-immigration advocates, Mexico’s government, and the Biden administration are in the midst of an all-or-nothing legal, propaganda, and political campaign to force Texas to remove the barrier and abandon state plans to gradually extend it downstream for miles if necessary. That's because marine barriers work well against human incursion, and pro-illegal immigration advocates damn well know it.

If all else fails – a lawsuit by the Biden administration and false claims that the barrier is killing migrants – an endangerment declaration could force Abbott to take down the barrier and prevent the state from deploying more at other high-traffic locations downriver from Eagle Pass.

Just when you thought the Biden administration could not get more cynical, officials surprise us with next-level manipulation for some unrelated political gain, in this case, a continuation of unimpeded mass migration that Biden started on Inauguration Day and which Gov. Abbott is trying to stop.

It can be no coincidence that 30 years after first considering such a move, a July 24 Fish and Wildlife press release notes that the Mexican fawnsfoot “today can only be found from Eagle Pass, Texas downstream to San Ygnacio, Texas”, and wants to designate 185.7 river miles as critical habitat for the species in Maverick, Webb, and Zapata counties.

Those miles encompass some of the southern border’s most heavily trammeled illegal river crossings, which is why Abbott wants to put marine barriers down there.

The agency’s own press release practically argues that a floating wall running from upstream to downstream is not even what has killed off the mussels. Rather, it is pollution that has poisoned “broader stream health” and killed off the mussels.

Biden’s mass migration has poisoned that river and probably killed mussels, even though no environmentalist or Democratic Party open-borders advocate will ever say so out loud. If anyone wants to stop the mussel killing, start with ending the Biden mass migration that began as soon as he took office in 2021 and goes on without letup.

Invasive hyacinth covering the Rio Grande. Photo by Todd Bensman.

Over several years of personal observation all along the Rio Grande stretches at issue, I’ve seen vast immigrant camps holding thousands on the Mexican side dump fetid, rotting cascades of garbage by the ton straight into the river. Thousands of immigrants every day for years now have emptied their bowels straight into the water. That’s why few dare drink from the river.

The river has never been so environmentally abused as by this mass migration, at least not since the advent of industrialized farming and use of fertilizer.

In several camp areas, such as Reynosa and Matamoros, nutrients from the immigrant garbage feed river-killing hyacinth plants that clog and choke water flow, and rob native water species like mussels of all oxygen and sunlight for thousands of yards. To be sure, the mass illegal immigration did not cause this scourge to begin with, but I’d bet a study of its more recent spread in proximity to migrant-camp garbage dumps is no coincidence.

It’s hard to believe any mussel – or anything else – could survive under the solid mats of this invasive species from Brazil.

And speaking of smothering mats, tens of thousands of illegal border-crossers upon reaching the American side leave behind on the riparian habitat suffocating tons of wet clothing and garbage as thousands at a time don dry clothes to turn themselves in to Border Patrol for their processing into America.

The clothing and non-biodegradable garbage covers habitat in pads hundreds of yards long along the river. In one area of Brownsville, across from Matamoros, I walked atop a spongy layer of discarded clothing and garbage so thick atop the native vegetation that the National Guardsmen there called the area “the mattress”.

The "mattress" of trash left by illegal border-crossers near Brownsville, Texas. Photo by Todd Bensman.

That’s to say nothing of the countless immigrants who trudge back and forth across shallow areas of the river, leaving deep underwater trails denuded of any living plant. If mussels are anywhere in the Rio Grande mud where this is happening, only their crushed shells would remain as evidence.

A senior Texas law enforcement official told me no migrant has gone near the 1,000-foot buoy since it was installed.

“No one’s going over it. No one’s going under it,” the official said. “I’d like to have another two miles of it.”

Yet which side did environmentalists position themselves on amid this human-made calamity? Groups like the Sierra Club are nowhere to be found because they’re fully in the Democratic Party coalition that pushes open-border immigration, say so often, and throw their weight behind any measure that would halt the destruction caused by illegal immigration, as author Jerry Kammer extensively documents in Chapter 9 of his 2020 immigration book, Losing Control.

It's a good thing that rich irony can’t be dumped in the river, because were the irony of environmentalists working to shut down Abbott’s floating wall to get into the water, it would feed miles of hyacinth and kill all the rest of the mussels.