Gov. Greg Abbott has never been above using migrants as political pawns for his own personal gain.
The question that arises now is whether his latest endeavor involving the installation of border buoys in the Rio Grande river has crossed a line. In the face of condemnation from both President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and the tragic loss of two migrant lives due to these measures, Gov. Abbott remains resolute in his defense of the barrier.
On July 24, the U.S. Justice Department sued the state of Texas and Gov. Abbott for installing floating barriers in the Rio Grande River to stop migrants crossing from Mexico, alleging the barrier was installed without necessary authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The lawsuit also alleges that the floating barrier obstructs navigation on the river and demands that the state remove the barrier.
Abbott defended his decision as the “commander-in-chief of our State’s militia” and blamed the Biden administration’s immigration policy for the conditions at the border.
“It has been under your watch that migrants have suffered an unprecedented crisis of inhumanity,” Abbott said in the letter to Biden. “If you truly care about human life, you must begin enforcing federal immigration laws.”
Funny that “inhumane” was the preferred choice for Gov. Abbott, whose barriers contain serrated metal plates that look like circular saw blades between each buoy to deter anyone from climbing over it.
“Just cruelty,” said Jesse Fuentes, who led a fact-finding kayak group to see Gov. Abbott’s floating border wall. “Nothing but concertina, containers, ship cars, and now a buoy in the middle of the river.”
Following the tragic loss of two migrants’ lives, Gov. Abbott’s response has been limited to discrediting the Dallas Morning News articles that broke the news. While encouraging his followers to examine the presented facts.
“Facts matter,” tweeted Abbott.
This raises questions about his handling of the situation in the midst of a deeply sensitive and concerning issue.
A week ago, Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Alicia Bárcena called out Texas for installing its anti-migrant buoys on her country’s side of the Rio Grande.
“What we’re talking about is a very delicate situation on the border, at the Rio Grande — Rio Bravo as we call it,” Foreign Minister Alicia Bárcena told reporters at the State Department at a joint news conference with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “Most of the buoys are on the Mexican side.”
Gov. Abbott and other Texas officials went out to say they were careful to keep the 1,000-foot barrier near Eagle Pass on the Texas side.
“The buoys occupy approximately three percent of the stream’s width and were placed on the shallower, U.S. side of the stream,” the state told a federal court in Austin last week.
This however was a lie.
A recent survey conducted by the binational agency overseeing the Rio Grande river has unveiled that the majority of anti-migrant buoys set up by Texas are situated on the Mexican side of the border.
Nearly 80% of the buoys – about 787 feet – are found on the Mexican side of the border, as confirmed by the survey carried out by the International Boundary and Water Commission. This discrepancy has prompted the Justice Department to present these findings in federal court as part of their lawsuit with the aim of compelling Texas to dismantle the barrier.
Despite these developments, both the Texas Department of Public Safety and Governor Abbott’s office have remained tight-lipped regarding the survey’s results, according to The Dallas Morning News.
In the legal arena, Texas has persistently asserted that the buoys do not infringe upon international agreements or the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, which empowers the federal government to regulate navigable waterways. The state argues that the Rio Grande’s shallow nature places it outside the scope of the Act’s definition.
With a court hearing scheduled for August 22nd, it remains to be seen how these legal disputes will unfold.