DOJ Warns Greg Abbott About Floating Migrant Barrier in Rio Grande

July 21, 2023

The Department of Justice has notified Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) that it intends to sue over a floating barrier the state erected in the Rio Grande River, including razor wire, to prevent migrants from illegal crossings.

“The State of Texas’s actions violate federal law, raise humanitarian concerns, present serious risks to public safety and the environment, and may interfere with the federal government’s ability to carry out its official duties,” DOJ wrote in a letter to Abbott, a copy of which was obtained by Hearst Newspapers and CNN.

The notification comes after the revelation of an email shared with the media on Monday by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), in which a state trooper accused the department of authorizing inhumane treatment of migrants attempting to cross the Texas-Mexico border.

The email asserts that within one seven-hour period in late June, two DPS medics said they had treated a 4-year-old girl who passed out in 100-degree heat after Texas National Guard pushed her group back toward Mexico, a 15-year-old boy with a broken leg who’d tried to avoid buoys in the river, a man with a significant laceration on his leg who’d tried to rescue his child from razor wire in the river, and a 19-year-old woman who suffered a miscarriage while trapped in the wire. 

Further, the trooper alleges that medics “were given orders to push the people back into the water to go to Mexico” and not give them drinking water. 

Texas DPS has rebuffed the assertions, with department spokesperson Lt. Chris Olivarez telling ABC News that the trooper “misinterpreted” the order.

According to Olivarez, when commanders order troopers to “push back” migrants, they are directing them to verbally tell the migrants to go to a port of entry and not cross illegally.

On Tuesday, Olivarez tweeted footage of what it says was troopers attempting to “stop migrants from placing themselves in harm’s way” of the razor wire “by deciding to cross the Rio Grande.”

“[T]he fact is,” Olivarez wrote, “our Troopers perform more rescues because they are the ones on the front lines rescuing migrants from both dangerous conditions & criminal smugglers.”

Gov. Abbott ordered concertina wire to be placed in the riverbank as part of his Operation Lone Star, a series of border security measures announced in 2021 that included sending state troopers and National Guard members to the Texas-Mexico border to deter or arrest migrants attempting to cross the Rio Grande.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) joined with 85 other of Congressional Democrats Friday in calling on the Biden Administration to exercise its authority over federal immigration policy to investigate Operation Lone Star.

“Operation Lone Star’s programs and policies, specifically the recent erection of razor wire or buoy walls, pose a huge danger to migrants and impede the ability of our border patrol offices to safely and humanely treat migrants as well as to comply with relevant federal and international laws,” the lawmakers said in a letter to President Biden.


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