Jul 21, 2023 - News

DOJ warns of legal action to remove Texas Gov. Abbott's buoy, barbed wire barrier in Rio Grande

A woman wades in water with a child on her back near a barbed wire barrier. Photo: Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department has notified Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton that it is pursuing legal action to remove a barrier of buoys in the Rio Grande.

Details: Construction of the floating barriers was unlawful, pursuant to section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, Matthew Nies, spokesman for the DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division, tells Axios.

Context: Texas recently set up miles of barriers using barbed wire and buoys in the river near Eagle Pass, a section of the border that has seen the second-highest number of migrant crossings this fiscal year, according to the Associated Press.

Threat level: In the email, the trooper said that a pregnant woman having a miscarriage was caught in the wire in June, according to the newspapers.

  • It also said a 4-year old girl passed out from heat exhaustion as she attempted to pass the barrier and was pushed back by Texas National Guard soldiers.
  • A teen boy broke his leg trying to get around the barbed wire and had to be carried by his father.
  • The trooper also wrote that wire has increased the number of drownings by forcing immigrants into deeper parts of the water.

What they're saying: Axios obtained a copy of the letter, sent Thursday by Assistant Attorney General Todd Kimm and Jaime Esparza, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas.

  • "This floating barrier poses a risk to navigation, as well as public safety, in the Rio Grande River, and it presents humanitarian concerns. Thus, we intend to seek appropriate legal remedies, which may include seeking injunctive relief requiring the removal of obstructions or other structures in the Rio Grande River," they write.
  • Abbott responded on Twitter, saying Texas has the "sovereign authority" to defend the border under the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution.
  • "Texas is stepping up to address this crisis. We will continue to deploy every strategy to protect Texans and Americans — and the migrants risking their lives. We will see you in court, Mr. President," Abbott's tweet says.
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