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Feds' Fight With Texas Over River Barrier Lands in Court

The Justice Department followed through on its threat to sue Texas over its installation of buoys in the Rio Grande to repel what Gov. Greg Abbott, in a defiant message, called an "invasion" at the border, the Dallas Morning News reports. The DOJ's lawsuit, filed in Austin federal court, seeks an injunction to remove the barrier as a violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act, which bans obstructions in navigable waterways. “Texas has flouted federal law by installing a barrier in the Rio Grande without obtaining the required federal authorization,” associate U.S. Attorney General Vanita Gupta said. “This floating barrier poses threats to navigation and public safety and presents humanitarian concerns. Additionally, the presence of the floating barrier has prompted diplomatic protests by Mexico and risks damaging U.S. foreign policy.”


Hours before the lawsuit was filed, Abbott released his written response to the threats, addressed to President Joe Biden, which declared, “Texas will fully utilize its constitutional authority to deal with the crisis you have caused." Federal officials say the barrier inhibits patrols on the river and poses a humanitarian risk at a time when illegal border crossings have plummeted anyway. A memo obtained by The Dallas Morning News, from a Customs and Border Patrol official in the Eagle Pass sector, warned that the state’s barriers block visibility and impede federal agents from catching or helping migrants. Migrants have drowned trying to evade the barriers. Immigration hardliners have urged leaders of Texas and other states to invoke the "invasion" imagery, which they say should trigger state authority under a provision in the U.S. Constitution that lets states “engage in War” if “invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.” “This will test the Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 power of states to defend themselves when the federal government refuses to do so,” tweeted Ken Cuccinelli, a former Republican attorney general of Virginia and Trump administration Homeland Security official. The barriers are part of Operation Lone Star, which Abbott launched two years ago to beef up border security when Biden took office, halted construction of the wall promoted by predecessor Donald Trump and began to dismantle many of Trump’s harsh immigration policies. The deployments of National Guard and state troopers have been costly to Texas taxpayers. The Legislature’s latest infusion for the upcoming two-year budget cycle pushed the tally to nearly $10 billion.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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