A federal judge on Wednesday had ordered Texas to move a large floating barrier to the bank of the Rio Grande after protests from the U.S. and Mexican governments over Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's latest tactic to stop migrants from crossing America's southern border.
The decision by U.S. District Judge David Ezra of Texas had been expected to be appealed by the state, which for the past two years has aggressively pushed legal boundaries to curb the flow of migrants under a sprawling mission known as Operation Lone Star.
The judge ordered that the state must move the barrier by Sept. 15.
Dozens of bright orange, wrecking-ball-sized buoys have created a water barrier longer than a soccer field on a stretch of river where migrants often try crossing from Mexico. Texas also has installed razor wire and steel fencing on the border, while also empowering armed officers to arrest migrants on trespassing charges.
The buoys deployed in July brought a swift legal challenge from the U.S. Justice Department, which accused Texas of putting a barrier on the international boundary without permission. President Joe Biden's administration also said the water barrier raised humanitarian and environmental concerns.
Texas installed the buoy barrier near the border town of Eagle Pass, with anchors in the riverbed.
Eagle Pass is part of a Border Patrol sector that has seen the second-highest number of migrant crossings this fiscal year with about 270,000 encounters — though that is lower than it was at this time last year.
The Biden administration has said illegal border crossings declined after new immigration rules took effect in May, as pandemic-related asylum restrictions expired.
Like other pieces of Abbott's multibillion-dollar border mission known as Operation Lone Star, the buoys pick up where former President Donald Trump left off. Plans for the same water barrier were in the pipeline in 2020, according to Mark Morgan, who at the time was the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Morgan said the plans were scrapped after Biden took office the following year. He called the barrier a "water wall" and said it was intended to be used as a stopgap in sections of the border where fences were not yet built or practical.
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