Biden administration sues Texas government over floating barrier on southern border

Biden administration sues Texas government over floating barrier on southern border

Given the refusal of the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, to eliminate the floating buoy barrier placed in the Rio Grandeon the US-Mexico border, the Justice Department on Monday filed a lawsuit against the state government seeking to force his removal.

The action comes after Abbott sent a letter to President Joe Biden assuring that he was willing to lead a legal battle with the administration to defend the floating barrier, with which he seeks to make it impossible for irregular migrants to cross into the country.

“Texas will see it in court, Mr. President,” Abbott said at the missive sent to the White House in response to the letter it received from the Department of Justice last Thursday, in which it had been announced that the federal government was willing to take legal action if the barrier was not removed.

The Department of Justice had established two in the afternoon this Monday, as the time limit for the Texas government to remove the barriers, a limit that was not complied with by the Texan authorities.

In the lawsuit, the US government requests that Abbott be required to remove “all structures and obstructions – including the floating barrier and all related infrastructure – in the Rio Grande” at its own cost.

He document of nine pages reiterates that the structures were not authorized and represent an “obstruction” in the navigability of the river. The lawsuit was filed in the Western District of Texas, Austin division, as that is where the governor’s main office is located.

“What the governor is doing is dangerous and illegal,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said Monday in response to the letter Abbott sent to President Biden. “Instead of sitting around the table and trying to find a way to work together, [Abbott] continues to implement these truly cruel, unfair and inhumane ways of moving forward with a system that has been broken for decades,” he added.

In the lawsuit, the Department of Justice alleges that Texas installed the floating barrier without the authorization of the US Army Corps of Engineers, so that it and “other federal agencies were deprived of the opportunity to assess the risks that the barrier represents to public safety and the environment.”

Abbott appealed to his “sovereign authority” as governor to defend the floating barrier, assuring that it is an action “in the interest of protecting the borders.”

In addition, he added that Texas is not in violation of Section 10 of the Rivers and Ports Act, as maintained by the Department of Justice, since this regulation makes specific reference to the construction of piers, breakwaters, boardwalks or structures.

“To state the obvious, that statute does not describe any action on the part of the State of Texas,” said the governor, who assured that his actions were a “secondary issue” and that “the fact is that, if the immigration laws that Congress already has in place were enforced, the United States would not be suffering from its record level of illegal immigration.”

In fact, the number of undocumented people who were intercepted trying to cross irregularly into the US during the month of June fell almost a third compared to May, when Title 42 ended and Title 8 went into effect.

However, according to Jean-Pierre, the governor’s actions “are making it difficult” to access the river, to patrol the area and to arrest people trying to enter the country illegally and “those are illegal actions that are not useful and are undermining what the president has proposed and is trying to do.”

For more than two years, the Republican governor has stepped up measures to prevent immigrants from entering his state, across the 1,200-mile border that separates Texas and Mexico. The buoys are the latest of his strategies to “prevent people from even reaching the border,” he said during the initial announcement.

In the letter sent by the Justice Department to Abbott, the attorneys also noted that the “floating barrier poses a risk to navigation as well as public safety on the Rio Grande, and presents humanitarian concerns.”

Abbott, for his part, assured in the letter that he shares “the humanitarian concerns” pointed out by the Justice portfolio, however, he ultimately blamed President Biden and “his open border policies” that “encourage immigrants to risk their lives by crossing illegally through the water.”

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