Posted on September 8, 2023

Judge Orders Texas to Remove Floating Border Barriers, Granting Biden Administration Request

Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS, September 6, 2023

A federal judge in Austin on Wednesday ordered Texas to remove river barriers that the state assembled along a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border to repel migrants, giving the Biden administration an early victory in its lawsuit against the buoys approved by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra issued a preliminary injunction directing Texas officials to remove the floating border barriers from the middle of the Rio Grande by Sept. 15, at the state’s own expense. He also prohibited the state from setting up similar structures in the middle of the Rio Grande, the international boundary between the U.S. and Mexico in Texas.

In his opinion, Ezra found that Texas’ buoys obstructed free navigation in the Rio Grande, in violation of a longstanding law governing waterways controlled by the federal government. Texas, he concluded, needed to obtain permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency, to place the barriers in the river.

Ezra noted he was directing Texas state officials to remove the floating barriers from the middle of the Rio Grande by moving them to the riverbank on the U.S. side, rather than ordering its “removal entirely from the river.”

The Biden administration filed its lawsuit against the floating barriers in late July, arguing that Texas needed permission from the federal government to set up the buoys, and that the state had failed to acquire it. The administration also said the structures impeded Border Patrol agents from patrolling the border, endangered migrants and hurt U.S.-Mexico relations.

Ezra agreed with the administration’s arguments. “To the extent that further findings are required, the Court also finds that Texas’s conduct irreparably harms the public safety, navigation, and the operations of federal agency officials in and around the Rio Grande,” he wrote in his ruling.