Federal judge orders buoys in Rio Grande moved to Texas riverbank

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

(AUSTIN, Texas) — A federal judge in Austin on Wednesday ordered the State of Texas to move the barriers it placed in the Rio Grande to the riverbank on the Texas side of the river. The state was also ordered not to put up any additional structures on or in the river until the final outcome of the lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice, according to the judge.

In a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter), Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the state will appeal. The Department of Justice sued the State of Texas for placing the buoys in the Rio Grande in July. The Justice Department said in court documents Texas didn’t have the authority to put the buoys in the river because it wasn’t within the State’s jurisdiction.

“The Court is directing that the buoy barrier be moved from the main waters of the Rio Grande River to the riverbank, rather than removal entirely from the river, so that the barrier does not impede or impair in any way navigation by airboats or other shallow draft craft along the Rio Grande River,” according to a footnote in Judge David Alan Ezra’s ruling. “The evidence has established that this can be done in a rather expeditious manner, as the Governor himself ordered movement of the buoy barrier, which the federal government maintained was in part in Mexican waters to a position closer to the United States side of the river.”

The state has until Sept. 15 to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to move the buoys.

In his statement announcing the state will appeal, Gov. Abbot called the ruling “incorrect.” “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,” his statement read. “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.”

Mexican officials have complained, according to court documents, about the buoys at a high level to their U.S. counterparts and have said the buoys drift onto the Mexican side of the river. Judge Ezra said in his decision that Texas wrongly interpreted the government’s stance that U.S. and Mexican relations have never been better and that the reason the United States could prevail in the case is because it adversely harms the federal government’s relationship with another nation.

“Texas has drawn the wrong conclusion,” Judge Ezra wrote. “The unprecedented strength and collaboration between the countries currently means the U.S. has more to lose than ever as a result of Texas’s actions. Texas, not a party to the talks and negotiations between the federal government and Mexico, has failed to present any evidence the barrier is not of significant concern to Mexico.”

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