EL PASO, Texas - Two U.S. soldiers tasked with helping safeguard the U.S.-Mexico border rescued a woman and her child, saving the migrant family from drowning in an El Paso canal as they attempted to cross into the country, the U.S. military said Tuesday.
The soldiers "saw a migrant family enter the canal" in El Paso last Tuesday and "observed a woman and her child start to struggle in the water and then submerge completely," U.S. Northern Command, which oversees operations on the southern border said in a statement.
One of the soldiers, Army Staff Sgt. Michael Mathews, "jumped into the water to rescue the woman and her child, while 1st Lt. Samuel Mueller used his shirt as a makeshift lifeline until (U.S Customs and Border Protection) agents arrived and threw them a rescue line," the statement added.
The two soldiers were members of a team that is assisting CBP, part of the contingent of active duty U.S. troops that President Donald Trump ordered deployed to help safeguard the border.
Some 2,400 active duty service members are currently deployed in support of border security. They are joined by an additional 1,900 National Guard troops.
"Though we have very specific instructions to ensure CBP forces are in the lead to interact with immigrants crossing the border, I made it clear to my soldiers that they are authorized in every case to help when they feel human life is at stake," Lt. Col. Will Canda, the commander of 3rd Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, said in the statement.
The Trump Administration has come under criticism for the conditions of facilities used to house migrants who have been apprehended attempting to cross the border.
"Rescues such as these are expected to occur more often as we officially entered summer Friday. Environments along our southern border such as the Chihuahua Desert or the canals in El Paso often pose hidden dangers of which most people are unaware of," Customs and Border Protection said in a statement on Tuesday.