The Biden administration is threatening to sue the state of Texas unless officials remove floating border barriers recently set up in the middle of the Rio Grande river to keep out illegal immigrants.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) told Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in a July 20 letter obtained by The Epoch Times that the agency intends to take legal action to force the dismantling of what it called the Lone Star state’s “unlawful” floating barrier at Eagle Pass, a major point of illegal border crossings.
“Texas’s unauthorized construction of the floating barrier is a prima facie violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act. This floating barrier poses a risk to navigation, as well as public safety, in the Rio Grande River, and it presents humanitarian concerns,” wrote Todd Kim, an assistant attorney general, and Jaime Esparza, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas.
Mr. Abbott announced the installation of the floating barrier on Saturday, as part of his efforts to cut down the flow of people entering the United States illegally.
“New marine barrier installation on the Rio Grande begins today,” Mr. Abbott stated on Twitter, along with a 15-second video showing dozens of large spherical buoys being loaded into tractor-trailers.
“More to come,” the governor remarked, suggesting more future deployments of measures meant to curb illegal immigration flows.
‘Number One Public Enemy’
Mr. Abbott first unveiled the plan last month to use floating barriers to deter unlawful entry into the country.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has been tasked with overseeing the deployment of a 1,000-foot floating barrier, which has been estimated to cost around $1 million.
DPS chief Steve McCraw, who called Mexican cartels the “number one public enemy,” said the barrier would dissuade people from making dangerous river crossings.
But the Justice Department has taken a dim view of the barrier, saying it threatens to impede federal law enforcement and poses “serious risks” to the environment and public safety.
‘We Will See You in Court’
In the letter, DOJ officials gave Texas an opportunity to hold talks with the Biden administration to prevent legal action.
“If we do not receive a response by 2:00 P.M. Eastern Time on July 24, 2023, indicating your commitment to expeditiously remove the floating barrier and related structures, the United States intends to file legal action,” they warned in the letter.
Mr. Abbott, however, has signaled that he remains undeterred in the face of the lawsuit threat.
In a series of statements on Twitter Friday, he blamed President Joe Biden and his policies for fueling a “tragic humanitarian crisis” at 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,” Mr. Abbott wrote.
Texas is “stepping up” to secure the border in the face of the illegal immigration crisis, the governor continued, vowing to take further action to secure the border.
“We will continue to deploy every strategy to protect Texans and Americans—and the migrants risking their lives,” he wrote.
“We will see you in court, Mr. President,” he added.
Concerns Over Impacts of Floating Barrier
Meanwhile, the federal International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) said it was not notified about the proposed floating barrier. The IBWC is an international body that oversees the boundary and water treaties between the United States and Mexico.
IBWC spokesperson Frank Fisher said the commission seeks to determine “whether and how this impacts our mission to carry out treaties between the U.S. and Mexico regarding border delineation, flood control, and water distribution, which includes the Rio Grande.”
The Center for Immigration Studies said that the water barrier comes with some political risk, as it will likely draw criticism from hostile media should anyone die attempting to overcome the barrier.
It comes as an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that illegal immigration is, at best, a “major problem.”
A recent poll by Gallup found that 39 percent of Americans believe the border situation is a full-blown “crisis.” Another 33 percent think it’s a “major problem,” meaning that a whopping 72 percent believe the situation on the border is bad enough to be considered seriously problematic.
Republicans in Congress have blamed the Biden administration for policies they say encourage people to undertake the perilous trek north and cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
The Biden administration has blamed factors outside its control—like crime, corruption, and poverty in countries of origin—while blaming former President Donald Trump for undermining the country’s asylum system, which the current administration says it’s trying to fix.
Texas is one of the states most impacted by illegal immigration as much of the migrant flow comes across its border with Mexico. Mr. Abbott has repeatedly blamed Mr. Biden for failing to adequately address the border crisis.
In addition to installing the floating barrier in Eagle Pass, Mr. Abbott has also signed six bills related to border security. These include designating Mexican cartels as terrorist organizations, allocating funding for law enforcement training, expanding the use of National Guard surveillance drones, and granting increased powers to Border Patrol agents under Texas law.
Caden Pearson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times