Texas Ordered to Remove Border Barriers in Response to Biden Administration's Request

18:43 06.09.2023

In a significant victory for the Biden administration, a federal judge in Austin ordered Texas to remove barriers placed along the Rio Grande to deter illegal crossings from Mexico. Senior U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra issued a preliminary injunction on Wednesday, stating that the barrier of floating buoys obstructed navigation on the river and posed a threat to human life.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit in July, arguing that the barrier violated a federal law that prohibits structures in navigable waterways without federal approval. The lawsuit claimed that the barrier endangered migrants, hindered the operations of Border Patrol, and strained diplomatic relations with Mexico.

Judge Ezra, in issuing the injunction, stated that the federal government was likely to prevail in the case. He ordered Texas to move the approximately 1,000-foot barrier to the U.S. banks of the river while the legal proceedings continued. The judge gave the state until September 15th to comply with the order.

Governor Greg Abbott's office responded to the decision by vowing to appeal it and stating that Texas was prepared to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Governor Abbott, known for his strong stance on immigration, has argued that he has the legal authority to create barriers along the border under the U.S. Constitution's clause dealing with state powers during an "invasion."

The Justice Department focused its lawsuit on Texas' violation of the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act, which grants federal jurisdiction over navigable waterways. The department also pushed back on Abbott's assertion of the right to declare a migrant "invasion," arguing that only the federal government has the authority to make such a determination.

The court fight over the buoys represents the first direct challenge from the federal government to Governor Abbott's efforts to stop migrants from entering the United States. Abbott's Operation Lone Star, a multibillion-dollar program aimed at addressing the influx of migrants, has faced criticism for its aggressive tactics.

Lawyers for Abbott and the state argued that the rivers and harbors law did not apply in this case because the section of the Rio Grande where the barrier was placed was too shallow for navigation. They also contended that Texas had the authority to deploy the buoys due to the migration and drug smuggling being considered an invasion.

Judge Ezra made it clear that the argument over the buoys was not meant to be a political debate over immigration. He stated that he was not there to engage in any political comment but rather to rule on the legal aspects of the case.

The order from Judge Ezra not only requires the removal of the existing barrier but also halts any new construction of floating barriers. The federal government argued that the barriers made rescuing migrants more dangerous for Border Patrol agents and put distressed migrants at greater risk in the water. According to federal filings, there have been 89 water-related deaths of migrants in and around Eagle Pass, the border city where the barrier was placed, in recent years.

While the decision is a preliminary injunction and not a final judgment, it represents an early victory for the Biden administration in its efforts to challenge Governor Abbott's immigration policies. The legal battle over the buoys has become another point of contention in the ongoing feud between the federal government and Texas over border enforcement.

/ Wednesday, September 6, 2023, 6:43 PM /

themes:  Texas  Mexico

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