Posted on July 25, 2023

Justice Department Sues Texas Over Floating Barrier in Rio Grande

J. David Goodman, New York Times, July 24, 2023

The Justice Department filed suit on Monday against the State of Texas over its installation of a floating barrier meant to stop people from swimming across the Rio Grande, arguing that the interlocking buoys placed in the river by the state violated federal law.

The suit comes after Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who heralded the installation of the 1,000-foot barrier this month, refused a request from the Justice Department to remove the buoys voluntarily, vowing instead to fight in court to keep them in place. {snip}


There has been a growing outcry among Democrats and even some in Texas law enforcement over other, increasingly aggressive tactics that the state is using to block immigrants, including installing additional layers of concertina wire along the banks of the Rio Grande. State police officers have been shouting at migrants to turn back and, in some cases, refusing to provide water to people who request it.

In the lawsuit over the buoy barrier, the federal government argues that Texas is in violation of a section of the federal Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act that prohibits the placement of structures in waterways without federal approval.


The federal government is asking the court to compel Texas to remove the barriers already installed and forbid the installation of any new barriers elsewhere in the river.

The emerging legal fight represents the first time that the Justice Department has directly challenged Mr. Abbott over his effort to enforce immigration laws, sending thousands of National Guard troops and state police officers to block migrants from crossing into Texas. The multibillion-dollar program, begun more than two years ago, is known as Operation Lone Star.


The buoy barriers, announced by Mr. Abbott last month, cover only a small section of the 1,254-mile long border between Mexico and Texas. {snip}


The federal government, in its suit on Monday, focused on the buoy barriers and federal law surrounding navigable waters and did not challenge the other tactics and policies employed by the Abbott administration as part of Operation Lone Star.