DOJ sues Texas over Rio Grande buoy system rigged with serrated metal plates; 2 migrants found dead


The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Texas over the state’s refusal to remove a 1,000-foot buoy barrier system it placed in the Rio Grande River to “secure the border.”

The buoys are tethered to the bottom of the river “with thick cables and concrete bases,” to prevent people from swimming under. Circular serrated saw blades are between each buoy to deter anyone from climbing over. So far, the buoys are alleged to have claimed the lives of two migrants, though the exact causes of death have not been officially determined.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott installed the buoys last month as part of his $4 billion border mission, Operation Lone Star, to deter immigration through federally unsanctioned and potentially illegal methods. The program has also:

  • Installed miles of razor wire along the banks of the Rio Grande, some of which becomes submerged when water levels increase. According to internal Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) emails, a 19-year-old pregnant woman was caught in the razor wire while undergoing a miscarriage. At least seven migrants were injured, some requiring staples to close lacerations.
  • Allegedly ordered officers to “push small children and nursing babies back into the Rio Grande” and prohibited officers from giving water to asylum seekers even in extreme heat.
  • Separated families who cross into Texas by “detaining fathers on trespassing charges and turning over mothers and children to federal officials.”
  • Arrested thousands of migrants and asylum seekers for trespassing on private property to “skirt constitutional restrictions that bar states from enforcing federal immigration law.” In some cases, the arrestees are held in state prisons for months.

The new DOJ lawsuit only challenges the buoy system, however, frustrating immigration advocates and progressive commentators. According to the government, Texas illegally built structures in the Rio Grande without the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ authorization, thereby violating the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899 (RHA).

RHA section 10, 33 U.S.C. § 403, prohibits the “creation of any obstruction not affirmatively authorized by Congress, to the navigable capacity of any of the waters of the United States.” 33 U.S.C. § 403… Defendants do not have authorization from the Corps pursuant to 33 U.S.C. § 403 or 33 C.F.R. § 322.3 for the Floating Barrier or for any associated infrastructure.

hearing for a preliminary injunction is set for August 22. The DOJ asks the courts to order Gov. Abbott to remove the buoy system immediately.

Regardless of how the district court rules, the case will likely get appealed—possibly “all the way to the United States Supreme Court,” as Gov. Abbott vowed on Fox News.

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