Home » Texas, Federal Government Face Off in Court Over Buoy Barrier in Rio Grande

Texas, Federal Government Face Off in Court Over Buoy Barrier in Rio Grande

On the Rio Grande between Texas and Mexico floats a 1,000-foot buoy barrier. It’s near the city of Eagle Pass, where barbed wire has also been installed. 

Gov. Greg Abbott says both are meant to prevent migrants from crossing dangerous water between legal points of entry, although migrants continue to take their chances. 

“This is the actual concertina wire,” said Eagle Pass resident Juanita V. Martinez, who brought the wire to an Austin courthouse where the state defended its buoy barrier Tuesday. “Just holding it, I cut my hand right now. I cut my hand. This is what Abbott is exposing our immigrants to.” 

Martinez and others are calling on Abbott to end his multi-billion dollar border security initiative, Operation Lone Star, citing humanitarian concerns. 

“Let’s be very clear: Having 1,000 feet of buoys isn’t going to do much, but what it does do is it pushes migrants in a low water crossing out into deeper water,” said Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio. 

The governor blames the Biden administration for not doing enough to help. He says Texas has a constitutional right to defend itself against what he calls an “invasion” at the border.

But the Department of Justice is suing Texas over the buoys, saying the state didn’t get a federal permit to put them in the water. The U.S. government wants the judge to order the buoys to be removed and bar the state from deploying any similar ones.

Loren Flossman testified that would take three weeks. He’s an employee with the contractor who installed the buoys.

Documents show that the buoys were mostly on Mexico’s side, but Flossman says he believes they were always on the U.S. side. Texas still spent the weekend moving the structure.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Texas went back and moved the buoys into a location where it is clear that they are on the United States side, not on the Mexico side,” Abbott said Monday. 

U.S. District Judge David Ezra, who was appointed during the Reagan administration, said he would not let politics get in the way of his decision. During the hearing on Tuesday, Ezra even shot down attempts by the state’s lawyers to bring migration, human smuggling, and fentanyl into the conversation. He says his concern is whether Texas is blocking navigable waterways with its buoy barrier. 

His decision could force Texas to remove the buoys. Closing arguments are due in writing by Friday afternoon.