Judge Orders Relocation of Floating Barrier in Rio Grande, ‘Texas Will Appeal’

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
September 6, 2023Border Security
Judge Orders Relocation of Floating Barrier in Rio Grande, ‘Texas Will Appeal’
People walk between razor wire and a string of buoys placed on the water along the Rio Grande border with Mexico in Eagle Pass, Texas, on July 16, 2023. (Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images)

Texas has been ordered by a federal judge to move a floating barrier of buoys deployed in the Rio Grande to deter illegal immigrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra, a President Ronald Reagan appointee, issued a preliminary injunction on Wednesday requiring the Lone Star state to relocate the buoys to an embankment on the Texas side of the river.

The 1,000-foot floating barrier was initially deployed in the river at one of the crossing hot spots near Eagle Pass in Maverick County in July. Eagle Pass is about 145 miles southwest of San Antonio.

The floating barrier is made up of interconnected rotating buoys that range in height from 4 to 6 feet, depending on the depth of the water where they are deployed.

The Mexican government and Biden administration have criticized the move.

The Biden administration sued Texas, arguing in a lawsuit that the floating barrier illegally disrupts navigation and was installed without permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In August, Judge Ezra heard testimony from the Biden administration, which highlighted the diplomatic stakes of the wrecking-ball-size buoys that Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) authorized as part of Operation Lone Star. This operation was launched in March 2021, involving a multi-agency effort to stop illegal crossings, drug smuggling, and human smuggling at the border.

A State Department official said that Mexico’s government had raised concerns over the barrier and that agreements between the two countries could suffer if the floating barriers remain in place.

“Mexico has sensitivities about sovereignty and doesn’t want to be seen as a lesser partner to the United States,” said Hillary Quam, the State Department’s coordinator for border affairs between the United States and Mexico.

Judge Ezra ordered Texas to move the barrier by Sept. 15. The judge wrote in his ruling that it threatened provisions of a treaty between the United States and Mexico. The judge also cast doubt on the barrier’s effectiveness.

NTD Photo
People rest on an island while attempting to cross the Rio Grande river into the United States, in Eagle Pass, Texas, on July 18, 2023. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

“The State of Texas did not present any credible evidence that the buoy barrier as installed has significantly curtailed illegal immigration across the Rio Grande River,” Judge Ezra wrote.

During the hearing in August, the judge heard about Texas repositioning the bright orange buoys closer to American soil after they allegedly drifted to the Mexico side. Mr. Abbott has said the barrier was moved “out of an abundance of caution.” He noted that he did not know whether the allegations were true.

Judge Ezra questioned during the hearing why Texas would have moved the buoys if they were already positioned in U.S. territory and whether the currents could cause the barrier to drift.

‘Battle to Defend Texas’s Sovereign Authority’

Mr. Abbott has promised to appeal the court’s decision, asserting that the ruling prolongs what he calls President Joe Biden’s “willful refusal” to address border security adequately.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, flanked by state and local law enforcement officials, speaks to media in Eagle Pass, Texas, on June 29, 2022. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

In a strongly worded statement, Mr. Abbott expressed confidence that the decision would be overturned on appeal.
“Texas will appeal. Today’s court decision merely prolongs President Biden’s willful refusal to acknowledge that Texas is rightfully stepping up to do the job that he should have been doing all along,” Mr. Abbott said.

Mr. Abbott emphasized that his administration is committed to “utilize every strategy to secure the border.” He said this includes deploying Texas National Guard soldiers and Department of Public Safety troopers and installing strategic barriers.

The Republican Texas governor’s stance on border security has been a focal point of his administration’s policies, with the governor repeatedly criticizing President Biden’s approach to immigration and border control.

“Our battle to defend Texas’ sovereign authority to protect lives from the chaos caused by President Biden’s open border policies has only begun. Texas is prepared to take this fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Mr. Abbott said.

According to the Border Patrol Union, the number of drownings in the Rio Grande is down from the previous average of 2.6 drownings a week since the barrier was installed.

The Texas governor has said the barrier is about securing the U.S. southern border and preventing migrants “from getting to the border.”

Jana J. Pruet and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times