Updated Sep 6, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Judge orders Texas to move floating border barrier

Migrants try to cross the border between Piedras Negras and Eagle Pass. Photo: David Peinado Romero/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Texas must move its controversial floating border barrier in the Rio Grande to the riverbank by the end of next week, a federal judge ordered on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The preliminary injunction is an early win for the Biden administration, which sued the state over its floating barrier which has upset Mexico as well as immigration advocates worried for the safety of migrants.

The latest: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday evening that state officials would appeal the ruling.

Details: Judge David Alan Ezra says there is "little doubt that Texas's 1,000-foot long, four-foot-wide floating barrier, anchored with metal wiring to heavy concrete blocks on the bed of the river, constitutes an obstruction to the navigation of the Rio Grande," according to the ruling.

  • The judge ruled Texas must now remove the buoy barrier that has been in place along the border in Eagle Pass by September 15 — and cover the cost of moving it.
  • The state is also blocked from setting up any other similar barriers in the middle of the river.

The big picture: The use of buoys and barbed wire is the latest in Texas' more aggressive approach to blocking migrants and asylum seekers from crossing the southern border in recent years through its multi-billion-dollar Operation Lone Star.

  • The push from Texas has come after multiple years of unprecedented levels of migration across the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Border crossings initially declined following the end of pandemic-policies and the start of new Biden-era asylum restrictions in May. But now, they are on the rise again.

Between the lines: The Rio Grande river marks the boundary between Mexico and the U.S., falling under the International Boundary and Water Commission's jurisdiction.

  • The commission has stated that it did not authorize Texas' placement of the barrier, according to AP.

What they're saying: Vanita Gupta, associate attorney general, said in a statement the Justice Department was "pleased that the court ruled that the barrier was unlawful and irreparably harms diplomatic relations, public safety, navigation, and the operations of federal agency officials in and around the Rio Grande."

The other side: "Today's court decision merely prolongs President Biden's willful refusal to acknowledge that Texas is rightfully stepping up to do the job that he should have been doing all along," Abbott said in a statement Wednesday evening.

Go deeper: State investigating claims about Texas border practices

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Vanita Gupta, associate attorney general.

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