A federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas handed the Biden Administration a victory when it ruled Wednesday that the state must remove its 1,000 foot floating buoy barrier on the Rio Grande meant to deter migrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
Senior U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra issued a preliminary injunction ordering Texas officials to remove the floating barrier by Sept. 15, at the state’s own expense.
The injunction also prohibits the state from setting up similar floating barriers in the Rio Grande in the future.
Texas began installation of the floating barrier — part of the state’s $4.5 billion “Operation Lone Star” border security initiative — in early July, which consists of 1,000 feet of large four-foot spherical buoys fastened together with metal cables and anchored in place by heavy concrete blocks.
Attached to about 500 feet of the floating barrier is a stainless-steel “anti-dive net,” which extends two feet down into the water.
The Biden administration sued Texas over the buoy barrier on July 24 under the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899, alleging that Texas had erected the structure without permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and had created an obstruction to navigability of the federal waterway without authorization from Congress.
“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,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wrote in a July letter to the Justice Department after the lawsuit was filed. “You can also help me save Texans, and indeed all Americans, from deadly drugs like fentanyl, cartel violence, and the horrors of human trafficking. “
“To end the risk that migrants will be harmed crossing the border illegally, you must fully enforce the laws of the United States that prohibit illegal immigration between ports of entry. In the meantime, Texas will fully utilize its constitutional authority to deal with the crisis you have caused. Texas will see you in court, Mr. President,” Abbot wrote.
Although writing in his ruling that “This Court is sympathetic with the aim of curtailing illegal immigration and illegal importation of drugs,” Ezra ultimately sided with the Biden administration.
“To the extent that further findings are required, the Court also finds that Texas’s conduct irreparably harms the public safety, navigation, and the operations of federal agency officials in and around the Rio Grande,” Ezra wrote.
Gov. Abbot has promised to immediately appeal the court’s decision.
“Texas will appeal. Today’s court decision merely prolongs President Biden’s willful refusal to acknowledge that Texas is rightfully stepping up to do the job that he should have been doing all along. This ruling is incorrect and will be overturned on appeal,” the Texas Governor’s Office stated in a press release Wednesday.
“We will continue to utilize every strategy to secure the border, including deploying Texas National Guard soldiers and Department of Public Safety troopers and installing strategic barriers,” the statement reads.
“Our battle to defend Texas’ sovereign authority to protect lives from the chaos caused by President Biden’s open border policies has only begun. Texas is prepared to take this fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,” the Governor’s Office added.