Texas will be allowed to keep a floating barrier the state placed in the Rio Grande amid a legal dispute with the Biden administration.
The 1,000-foot chain of orange buoys is designed to deter illegal immigrants from swimming across the river from Mexico in order to enter the United States as part of Governor Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star. The Department of Justice sued Texas, demanding the barrier be removed and accusing the state of violating the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899.
Federal District Judge David A. Ezra sided with the Biden administration on Sept. 6. He said the floating barrier is a “threat to human life,” an “impairment to free and safe navigation,” as well as a “contraindication to the balance of priorities Congress struck in the RHA” and that the federal government’s claim “outweigh Texas’s interest.”
Ezra ordered Texas to remove the buoy barrier by Sept. 15.
Abbott immediately appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, arguing the buoys “have nearly eliminated illegal crossings of people and drugs where they’ve been placed.”
“The United States failed to defend Texas’s borders, leading to millions of individuals and hundreds of millions of fatal doses of fentanyl, often trafficked by transnational criminal cartels, illegally entering Texas and the US,” the state government wrote in its filing. “Consequently, the State declared a border-security disaster and placed an approximately 1,000-foot long buoy system in the Rio Grande to prevent people and drugs from being trafficked into the State, violating federal and Texas law.”
“If Texas must move the buoys from their current location, its appellate rights are effectively lost because the harm is already done to Texas’s sovereign self-defense and public-safety interests,” the filing continued. “The US identifies no injury that might counterbalance these harms.”
The Appeals Court granted an administrative stay on Sept. 7.
The barrier was deployed in July and is anchored in the riverbed near Eagle Pass. The border town was described as the “eye of the immigration storm” in November of 2022 – with an average of 2,000 illegal crossings recorded every day.
“Located in Maverick county, with a population of about 30,000, Eagle Pass is one of two major towns in the Del Rio sector,” reports CBN. “Since 2020, it’s transformed from one of the quietest border stretches to the busiest and is now filled with immigrants who enter America illegally.”
Over 270,000 encounters have been recorded at the southern border near Eagle Pass during the current fiscal year.
Abbott has repeatedly called on President Joe Biden to take serious action to stem the flow of illegal immigration into the country. After the DOJ accused the governor of endangering the lives of migrants with the floating barrier, Abbott told Biden his unwillingness to enforce “immigration laws Congress already has on the books” was the real danger.
“While I share the humanitarian concerns noted in your lawyers’ letter, Mr. President, your finger points in the wrong direction. Neither of us wants to see another death in the Rio Grande River,” he wrote in a letter to the president in July. “Yet your open-border policies encourage migrants to risk their lives by crossing illegally through the water, instead of safely and legally at a port of entry. Nobody drowns on a bridge.”
“If you truly care about human life, you must begin enforcing federal immigration laws. By doing so, you can help me stop migrants from wagering their lives in the waters of the Rio Grande River,” Abbott added. “You can also help me save Texans, and indeed all Americans, from deadly drugs like fentanyl, cartel violence, and the horrors of human trafficking.”