Judge orders Texas officials to remove floating buoys along Rio Grande border

Early victory for Biden administration in legal fight with Governor Greg Abbott’s anti-migrant efforts

Bevan Hurley
Wednesday 06 September 2023 22:55 BST
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Up-close look at buoys with saw-like barbed metal used in Rio Grande

A judge has ordered Texas officials to remove floating buoys from a section of the Rio Grande along the US-Mexico border that were put in place to repel migrants.

Senior US District Court Judge David Ezra released a preliminary injunction on Wednesday directing state officials to remove the floating border barriers by 15 September, at the state’s expense. 

The ruling is an early victory for the Biden administration, after it sued Texas in July arguing that officials had failed to secure the necessary permits to install the barriers.

Judge Ezra also banned state officials from putting in any other barriers in the middle of the Rio Grande River.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the installation of the 1,000-foot floating barriers in July to deter migrants, despite warnings they posed a grave danger to migrants’ lives.

The Justice Department then sued the state, arguing the buoys flouted federal law, posed a public safety threat and risked damaging US-Mexican relations.

The wrecking ball-sized, razor-tipped buoys formed part of a large-scale border security mission undertaken by Governor Abbott known as Operation Lone Star.

A judge has ordered Texas to remove floating buoys in the Rio Grande
A judge has ordered Texas to remove floating buoys in the Rio Grande (Associated Press)

In his ruling, Judge Ezra noted they had been ineffective in preventing illegal immigration.

“The State of Texas did not present any credible evidence that the buoy barrier as installed has significantly curtailed illegal immigration across the Rio Grande River,” he wrote.

Judge Garcia also said the barriers also threatened a treaty between the United States and Mexico, whose foreign ministry has repeatedly condemned the barriers as a violation of their sovereignty.

Last month, two bodies were found near the barriers, with one stuck in the razor buoys. Their identities and cause of death are under investigation.

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