A US judge ordered Texas to move a line of floating buoys that were placed in the middle of the Rio Grande to block migrants from crossing the US-Mexico border. The ruling is a tentative win for the Biden administration after the Department of Justice (DoJ) sued the state.
The federal judge David Ezra on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction in the state capital of Austin that requires Texas to relocate the controversial buoys, currently near the city of Eagle Pass, to an embankment on the Texas side of the river.
The Biden administration argued in a legal challenge that the barrier illegally disrupts navigation and was installed without necessary permission from the US army corps of engineers.
The ruling is a setback for the hard-right Republican Texas governor, Greg Abbott. He contends that the Democratic president, Joe Biden, has been too lenient with border security as record numbers of migrants have been apprehended after crossing the border in recent years. Some are trying to evade the authorities, many want to report themselves to the authorities and exercise their right to request asylum in the US and be processed, all of which Abbott characterizes as an “invasion”.
The long floating barrier has been an eye-catching tactic from Abbott. But it is just one of multiple strategies the governor is using under the state project Operation Lone Star and aimed at deterring migrants from even reaching US soil, including coils of razor wire, state vehicles and troops patrolling miles of bulldozed riverbank, helicopters and boats. There have been complaintsabout people being shooed back to Mexico by state and federal personnel.
“Governor Abbott announced that he was not ‘asking for permission’ for Operation Lone Star, the anti-immigration program under which Texasconstructed the floating barrier,” Ezra wrote in a 42-page order. “Unfortunately for Texas, permission is exactly what federal law requires before installing obstructions in the nation’s navigable waters.”
Texas could appeal to the conservative-leaning fifth US circuit court of appeals. The buoys and other elements that make up Abbott’s barrier tactics have attracted complaints from immigration rights advocates and environmentalists.