The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has sought a preliminary injunction in its lawsuit against Texas, regarding a floating barrier erected in the Rio Grande. The motion was filed on Wednesday.
The DOJ insists that Texas needs clearance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expand the existing barrier near Eagle Pass. They claim the barrier hinders navigation in the Rio Grande and causes damage.
“The basic facts are clear, and no further inquiry is needed for this Court to grant the United States immediate injunctive relief in this enforcement action,” the filing reads.
“The Floating Barrier also causes imminent irreparable harm because it obstructs lateral navigation across the Rio Grande for hundreds of yards along the river’s length,” it adds.
If the injunction is granted, the army will oversee the barrier’s removal.
Mexico has also expressed disapproval of the floating barrier, stating it breaches treaty obligations and raises humanitarian issues, potentially causing fatalities among those swimming in the river.
In June, Mexico lodged a diplomatic complaint, alleging Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s deployment of buoys contravenes water treaties between the United States and Mexico.
“Mexico has specifically asserted that Texas’ actions contravene various treaty obligations and has raised humanitarian concerns regarding possible loss of life to persons swimming in the Rio Grande,” the filing reads.
The DOJ lawsuit, initiated on Monday, accuses Abbott, a Republican, of installing the barrier without necessary federal authorization, as mandated by the Rivers and Harbors Act.
Abbott rejects the DOJ’s allegation that the buoys infringe the Rivers and Harbors Act. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta has expressed concerns that the barrier poses threats to navigation, public safety, and U.S. foreign policy due to diplomatic protests from Mexico.
Abbott defends his decision, asserting that the barrier is part of Operation Lone Star, aimed at tackling broader immigration issues. Texas officials argue that the barrier deters migrants from crossing the risky Rio Grande.
Steve McCraw, the Texas Department of Public Safety director, has argued that crossing the Rio Grande inherently endangers migrants and that the barrier serves to deter them from entering the water.
Texas officials maintain that they positioned buoys in the Rio Grande to avert drowning incidents among unauthorized immigrants attempting to cross into the U.S.
“Texas will see you in court, Mr. President,” the Republican wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday.
Officials reported that around the Fourth of July holiday, four individuals, including a baby, drowned near Eagle Pass while attempting to cross the Rio Grande.
“Neither of us wants to see another death in the Rio Grande River,” Mr. Abbott wrote. “Yet your open-border policies encourage migrants to risk their lives by crossing illegally through the water, instead of safely and legally at a port of entry. Nobody drowns on a bridge.”
Abbott stressed that enforcing existing immigration laws would prevent the U.S. from experiencing record-breaking levels of illegal immigration.
The International Boundary and Water Commission, responsible for managing U.S.-Mexico treaties and boundary lines, stated that they were not informed about the floating barrier in advance, raising concerns about potential treaty impacts.
Frank Fisher, a spokesperson for the Commission, confirmed they are evaluating Texas’s proposal and its potential treaty implications.
Approximately 90 House Democrats have urged the Biden administration to take action against Texas over the Rio Grande barrier, citing injuries and drownings as primary concerns.