Judge to Decide If Texas Can Keep Water Barrier to Deter Illegal Immigrants

Judge to Decide If Texas Can Keep Water Barrier to Deter Illegal Immigrants
Migrants walk after crossing the Grand River into the United States in Eagle Pass, Texas as seen from Piedras Negras, Coahuila state, Mexico, on Aug. 4, 2023. (Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images)

A federal judge will decide whether Texas can keep the marine barrier it placed on the U.S.–Mexico border to deter illegal immigrants from crossing the Rio Grande River.

U.S. District Judge Davis Ezra on Tuesday heard arguments in a lawsuit brought against the state of Texas by the Department of Justice over the large buoys that were installed in the river in mid-July. (pdf) The DOJ argues the barrier was placed illegally and without federal oversight.

The testimony sought to reinforce what the Biden administration argues are the diplomatic stakes over the large wrecking-ball-size buoys that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott authorized as part of Operation Lone Star.

The judge did not issue a ruling at the close of the hearing in Austin.

Judge Ezra said the issue would center on whether Mr. Abbott has the power to take such measures to step what the governor has described as an “invasion” on the Southern border.

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

“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. 

She testified that Mexico has taken its concerns to the “highest diplomatic levels” within the United States since the installation of the buoys just over a month ago. Ms. Quam said the barrier could stall infrastructure projects between the United States and Mexico and harm Mexico’s commitments to delivering water to the United States.

Abbott’s News Conference

The scheduled hearing was held one day after Gov. Greg Abbott held a news conference at the border in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Republican Govs. Kevin Stitt (Okla.), Kim Reynolds (Iowa), Jim Pillen (Neb.), and Kristi Noem (S.D.) joined Mr. Abbott at the news conference. The GOP governors answered the Texas governor’s request for assistance at the border. (pdf)

“These governors here with me today are deploying military and law enforcement officers to help secure the Texas border,” Mr. Abbott told reporters on Monday. “We have 14 governors who are deploying personnel to secure the border that President Biden has abandoned.”

Mr. Abbott said President Joe Biden’s refusal to secure the border is to blame for the “record number” of deaths at the border.

“President Biden is not doing his job, and he is responsible for the largest amount of illegal immigration in the history of the United States and has rolled out the deadly welcome mat with a record number of people dying attempting to cross the border.”

Ms. Noem described President Joe Biden’s border policies as “inhumane” during her visit to the border.

“What we’re literally witnessing is a war zone, and it is astonishing to witness our president allow this to happen,” she said in a joint press release. “The cartels are out for blood, and they are facilitating the trafficking of our children every day. These policies are inhumane [for] what they are doing to people and families. I’m all in helping support Operation Lone Star.”

Texas Border Czar Mike Banks, who was also on hand, told reporters the floating marine barriers have been an effective deterrent for illegal and unsafe crossings into the United States.

Governors from Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina, Virginia, Wyoming, and Tennessee are among the other states that have committed resources to support Texas’s efforts at the border.

Repositioning the Buoys

The hearing also follows the state’s repositioning of the bright orange water buoys closer to American soil after they allegedly drifted to the Mexico side.

The barrier, which was installed in mid-July to deter illegal crossings, was moved “out of an abundance of caution,” Mr. Abbott said, adding 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.

“If it were in a position Texas was comfortable with, they wouldn’t have done that,” he said.

The judge ordered both sides to submit written closing argument by Friday as the Biden administration seeks a court injunction ordering the removal of the marine barrier.

Two people, including a child, drowned in the Rio Grande earlier this month.

Since the barrier was installed, the number of drownings is down from the previous average of 2.6 drownings a week, according to the Border Patrol Union.

From The Epoch Times

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