DOJ to sue Texas over floating border barrier; Abbott says ‘see you in court’

By Adam Shaw

The Department of Justice says it intends to sue Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over the use of a floating buoy border barrier to stop illegal immigration into the state — a move that immediately drew a fiery response from the Republican governor.

“The State of Texas’s 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 DOJ said in a letter to Abbott, first reported by the Houston Chronicle.

Abbott announced the barrier, consisting of orange buoys and intended to discourage migrants from crossing the Rio Grande, in June and began installing it this month. It is part of Operation Lone Star, a multifaceted operation to tackle the border crisis amid what Republicans say is a vacuum of leadership from the federal government.

But the move had angered Mexico and the U.S. federal government, as well as immigration activists, who had said the move to defend Texas’ sovereignty was illegal and inhumane.

Texas officials had said that the latest plan will discourage people from attempting to cross the treacherous river. It is expected to take about two weeks to set up the buoys.

“Anytime they get in that water, it’s a risk to the migrants. This is the deterrent from even coming in the water,” Texas Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw said last month.

But the DOJ also cited humanitarian concerns in opposing it, as well as other risks.

Migrants approach the site where workers are assembling large buoys used as a border barrier along the banks of the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas. (AP/Eric Gay)

“This floating barrier poses a risk to navigation, as well as public safety, in the Rio Grande River, and it presents humanitarian concerns,” the DOJ letter said, according to the Chronicle. “Thus, we intend to seek appropriate legal remedies, which may include seeking injunctive relief requiring the removal of obstructions or other structures in the Rio Grande River.”

The letter sets a July 24 deadline for a response from Abbott.

Abbott responded on Twitter to the letter, saying that Texas “has the sovereign authority to defend our border, under the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution. We have sent the Biden Administration numerous letters detailing our authority, including the one I hand-delivered to President Biden earlier this year.”

Abbott has feuded with the Biden administration repeatedly about the border, with the administration accusing him of inhumane actions and with Abbott accusing the administration of exacerbating the migrant crisis.

“The tragic humanitarian crisis on the border was created because of Biden’s refusal to secure the border. His open border policies encourage migrants to risk their lives crossing illegally through the Rio Grande, instead of safely and legally over a bridge,” Abbott said Friday.

“Texas is stepping up to address this crisis. We will continue to deploy every strategy to protect Texans and Americans — and the migrants risking their lives,” he said. “We will see you in court, Mr. President.”

The administration has slammed Abbott’s unilateral efforts to tackle the border crisis now into its third year. Abbott has restarted border wall construction, set up razor wire and has bussed migrants to “sanctuary” cities like Washington, D.C., and New York City. 

An administration official told Fox on Friday that Abbott is endangering the lives of migrants and agents with his actions — pointing to reports of drownings and broken limbs, as well as injuries from razor wire.

“The Governor’s actions are preventing Border Patrol agents from accessing the river, patrolling the area, and arresting individuals who attempt to enter the country unlawfully,” the official said. “They are forcing agents to cut through multiple layers of concertina wire when responding to medical emergencies.”

The official also pointed to June’s border numbers, which show a sharp drop in encounters at the border overall to numbers not seen since February 2021

“Gov. Abbott is undermining the President’s effective border enforcement plan, which has brought unlawful border crossings down to the lowest levels in over two years,” the official said.

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Meanwhile, the border barrier also brought rebuke from Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Mexico has issued a complaint over the barrier, and Lopez Obrador used the barriers to meddle in U.S. elections and tell Hispanics not to vote for Abbott or Republicans who support stronger border measures.

“We don’t have to do much, just tell our compatriots not to vote for the governor of Texas or for lawmakers of the Republican Party who support these measures,” he said.

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