Justice Department to sue Texas over Abbott’s floating wall, razor wire along the Rio Grande

The Justice Department has notified the State of Texas that it will file suit over the floating buoy barrier in the middle of the Rio Grande. Abbott welcomed the legal challenge.

By David Martin Davies & Dan Katz, Texas Public RadioJuly 21, 2023 12:25 pm, ,

From Texas Public Radio:

The Justice Department has notified Texas that it plans to file a lawsuit over Gov. Greg Abbott’s floating border barrier in the Rio Grande to deter migrants from crossing illegally.

The DOJ sent a letter to Abbott on Thursday demanding that Texas remove the buoys and razor wire along the Rio Grande by Monday, July 24, or legal action will be taken.

“The State of Texas’ actions violate federal law, raise humanitarian concerns, present serious risks to public safety and the environment, and may interfere with the federal government’s ability to carry out its official duties,” the letter read.

“The floating barrier at issue here is a structure that obstructs the navigable capacity of the Rio Grande … which is a navigable water of the United States within the meaning of the Rivers and Harbors Act. Texas does not have authorization from the Corps [of Engineers] to install the floating barrier and did not seek such authorization before doing so.”

The Biden administration has been facing pressure to intervene in Abbott’s escalating border security activities.

Eighty-six House Democrats, led by San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro, sent a letter to the Biden administration on Friday.

“We write to express our profound alarm over border policies instituted by Texas Governor Greg Abbott that are putting asylum-seekers at serious risk of injury and death, interfering with federal immigration enforcement, infringing on private property rights, and violating U.S. treaty commitments with Mexico,” said the letter. “We urge you to assert your authority over federal immigration policy and foreign relations and investigate and pursue legal action, as appropriate, related to stop Governor Abbott’s dangerous and cruel actions.”

Abbott’s floating wall is a part of his larger $4 billion border security initiative called Operation Lone Star, which has been testing the legal limits of a state’s ability to enforce immigration policy.

The Republican governor claims the Biden administration is not doing enough to stop illegal migration through Texas.

“Texas has the sovereign authority to defend our border, under the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution,” Abbott said in a tweet Friday in response to the DOJ letter. “We will continue to deploy every strategy to protect Texans and Americans — and the migrants risking their lives.”

He added: “We will see you in court, Mr. President.”

Migrants breach a section of concertina wire after crossing the Rio Grande on July 20, from Piedras Negras, Mexico, into Eagle Pass, hoping to seek asylum in the U.S.
Omar Ornelas / Reuters

Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March 2021 with the deployment of thousands of Department of Public Safety troopers and Texas National Guard members to arrest migrants on state trespassing charges.

Over the last two years, the program has expanded to include high speed pursuits and the installation of miles of razor wire and other obstacles such as train cars along the Rio Grande. Most recently, Abbott installed the floating buoy barrier in the middle of the river in Eagle Pass, a crossing hot spot and the epicenter of Operation Lone Star.

Abbott and the state are also facing a separate DOJ investigation into an email from a Texas DPS trooper and medic in Eagle Pass that claimed troopers were ordered to push migrants they encounter into the Rio Grande and deny them water in the middle of a heat wave. Abbott denied the allegations.

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