DOJ sues Texas, Abbott over 'unauthorized' anti-migration barriers in Rio Grande

Buoy barriers are installed and situated in the middle of the Rio Grande river on July 18, 2023 in Eagle Pass, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

On Monday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas and Governor Greg Abbott regarding the installation of a barrier of buoys in the Rio Grande River aimed at preventing migrants from crossing into the U.S.

The lawsuit alleges that Texas violated the Rivers and Harbors Act by obstructing navigable waters of the U.S. with the construction of the buoy barrier near the Camino Real International Bridge in Eagle Pass. The DOJ claims that Texas did not seek authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as required by law, before installing the buoys. As a result, federal agencies were unable to assess risks to public safety and the environment, and the project's compliance with the public interest.

The DOJ is seeking a court order for Texas to remove the existing buoys at its own expense and prevent further barriers in other waters near the U.S.-Mexico border. The buoys are part of Governor Abbott's major border policy, known as Operation Lone Star.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta expressed concerns over the floating barrier's impact on navigation, public safety, and humanitarian issues. Furthermore, the presence of the barrier has led to diplomatic protests by Mexico and risks damaging U.S. foreign policy.

In response to the DOJ's warning on Friday, Governor Abbott reaffirmed his state's defense, citing Texas' "sovereign authority" to protect its borders. He stated that Texas will contest the lawsuit in court, remaining critical of the Biden administration's border and immigration policies.

The case has yet to be assigned to a judge from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, and the timeframe for Texas to address the allegations in court remains uncertain. The White House spokesman responded to the DOJ lawsuit, accusing Governor Abbott's actions of undermining effective border security and jeopardizing the safety of migrants and border agents.