In a recent development, a federal judge has ordered the state of Texas to remove floating border buoys from the Rio Grande by Friday, September 15th, and has prohibited the installation of similar structures without proper approval. The judge’s ruling, which grants a temporary injunction, criticizes Governor Greg Abbott for disregarding federal laws.
Federal Judge David Ezra, presiding over the Western District of Texas, stated in his scathing ruling that Texas had violated the law. He further expressed the belief that the Justice Department was likely to prevail in the civil suit it had filed against Governor Abbott, alleging that Texas had violated a federal law prohibiting unauthorized construction in navigable waterways.
Texas had argued that the rules did not apply to them because they contended that the area of the river where the buoys were placed was too shallow to be considered navigable. The state also asserted its right to protect itself against what it referred to as a migrant “invasion.”
Judge Ezra disagreed with Texas’ arguments, stating, “The Court has found that the United States is likely to succeed on the merits of its claim that Defendants have violated (the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899).” He went on to say, “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.”
It’s important to note that this injunction does not conclude the case filed by the Justice Department; it adds to the ongoing legal saga. Representatives for Governor Abbott and the Texas Department of Public Safety did not immediately respond to inquiries about whether they intended to comply with the court order. Additionally, Texas has the option to appeal the injunction to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The controversy surrounding the border buoys began when the Texas Department of Public Safety started placing them in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass in early July. Subsequently, it was revealed that approximately 80% of the nearly 1,000-foot buoy barrier had been positioned in Mexican territory. Texas discreetly moved the buoys back to U.S. property.
During a lengthy hearing last week, Judge Ezra rejected Texas’ argument that the state’s perception of a migrant “invasion” justified the installation of buoys without seeking proper authorization from the federal government. He emphasized that the case primarily revolved around whether the buoys obstructed navigation along the Rio Grande.
In their closing arguments filed last week, Texas attorneys asserted that the Justice Department had failed to prove that the buoys hindered navigability. They also cited Texas’ constitutional authority to defend its territory against the declared “invasion” by Governor Abbott.
Governor Abbott has remained steadfast in his stance, vowing to appeal the lawsuit to the Supreme Court. He has also expressed a desire for the Supreme Court to grant states more flexibility in immigration enforcement, a role typically reserved for the federal government.
However, the buoy installation has garnered international condemnation and criticism from Congressional Democrats and President Joe Biden. Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Alicia Bárcena has lodged three formal protests with the United States since late June, expressing concerns about the buoys’ presence.
Secretary Bárcena has directly conveyed these concerns to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas during meetings held earlier last month. Mexican officials contend that the buoys violate international treaties signed between the two nations.