Spc. Bishop Evans died after jumping into the Rio Grand River on Friday to save two migrants attempting to enter the United States. Photo courtesy of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott/Twitter
April 25 (UPI) -- The body of a Texas Army National Guardsman who jumped into the Rio Grand River to save migrants from drowning as they tried to cross into the United States late last week has been recovered, officials said.
Authorities had launched a search and rescue mission for Spc. Bishop Evans on Friday after he jumped into the river and went missing.
The Texas Military Department confirmed the recovery of Evans' body in a statement on Monday following "an exhaustive interagency search."
"We are devastated by the loss of a member of our guard family," said Maj. Gen. Tom Suelzer, adjutant general for Texas. "We recognized the selflessness of this heroic soldier who put his life above others in service to our state and national security."
Evans had been assigned to Operation Lone Star, which Gov. Greg Abbott launched last year to combat irregular migration and the smuggling of people and drugs into the state.
In response to his death, the Republican governor ordered all flags to half-staff
"We are heartbroken to learn of the death of Spc. Bishop E. Evans who was reported missing in Eagle Pass on Friday," Abbott said in a statement. "I ask that Texans join Cecilia and me in praying for the family and friends of Spc. Evans as they grieve this heartbreaking loss."
Operation Lone Star was launched March 6, 2021, amid spiking instances of migrants entering the United States via Texas with Abbott expanding the program as recently as early this month in response to President Joe Biden's decision to end a controversial pandemic-related immigration restriction that expelled thousands of migrants without immigration hearings from the country.
The Texas Military Department said the two migrants whom Evans attempted to save "were involved in illicit transnational narcotics trafficking" and remain in U.S. Customs and Border Patrol custody.
GOP politicians, including Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York and Reps. Gary Palmer of Alabama, Chip Roy of Texas and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia as well as Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy held a press conference Monday at Eagle Pass near where Evans went missing to criticize the Biden administration's ending of Title 42.
"A country without a secure border is not a country," McCarthy said. "And no longer is it just border cities, every city in America is a border city."
Rep. Randy Weber of Texas said President Joe Biden bears responsibility for the situation at the border, including Evans' death.
"This is his border crisis," he said. "I don't see how he sleeps well at night."
Asked if the Biden administration feels responsible for Evans' death, White House press secretary Jen Psaki in Washington, D.C., told reporters that they mourn his loss of life while noting that the National Guard falls under the purview of each state.
"We've long stated that our immigration system is broken. There needs to be more done to invest in smarter security, to have a more effective asylum processing system," she said.
According to CBP statistics, there were 221,303 encounters with migrants at the southwest land border with Mexico, up from more than 170,00 during the same time last year.
Later on Monday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the Biden administration from ending Title 42.