Judge orders Texas to remove floating buoys used to curb flow of illegal immigrants

A federal judge Wednesday ordered Texas to remove floating buoys from the Rio Grande no later than Sept. 15.

Gov. Greg Abbott deployed the buoys in July to curb the flow of illegal immigrants to the state. The plan was part of the Republican governor’s broader Operation Lone Star. 

Texas installed the buoy barrier near the border town of Eagle Pass, with anchors in the riverbed. Eagle Pass is part of a Border Patrol sector that has seen the second-highest number of migrant crossings this fiscal year with about 270,000 encounters — though that is lower than it was at this time last year.

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The buoys brought a swift legal challenge from the U.S. Justice Department, which accused Texas of putting a barrier on the international boundary without permission. President Joe Biden’s administration also said the water barrier raised humanitarian and environmental concerns.

The bright-orange, wrecking ball-sized buoys have created a water barrier longer than a soccer field on a stretch of river where migrants often try crossing from Mexico. Texas also has installed razor wire and steel fencing on the border, while also empowering armed officers to arrest migrants on trespassing charges.

Abbott said his administration planned to appeal Wednesday’s decision by U.S. District Judge David Ezra. 

“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. This ruling is incorrect and will be overturned on appeal,” Abbott said in a statement. “We will continue to utilize every strategy to secure the border, including deploying Texas National Guard soldiers and Department of Public Safety troopers and installing strategic barriers. 

“Our battle to defend Texas’ sovereign authority to protect lives from the chaos caused by President Biden’s open border policies has only begun. Texas is prepared to take this fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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