DOJ Sues Texas over Rio Grande Barriers

July 24, 2023

The Department of Justice on Monday filed suit against the state of Texas for placing buoys in the Rio Grande to try to prevent migrants from crossing the Mexican border.

The suit comes after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) defied the DOJ’s initial request to remove the barriers. 

“Texas will fully utilize its constitutional authority to deal with the crisis you have caused,” Abbott wrote in a letter to President Biden, in which he added, “Texas will see you in court, Mr. President.”

The DOJ warned Abbott last week that it intended to sue Texas if the barriers are not removed.

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 placed 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 water. 

Texas DPS has rebuffed those 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.

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.

According to the DOJ’s letter, the agency gave Texas a deadline of 2pm ET Monday to commit to removing the floating barriers or face legal action. 

Abbott countered that he has “asserted Texas’s sovereign interest in protecting [Texas’] borders. I have done so in my role as the commander-in-chief of our State’s militia under Article IV, § 7 of the Texas Constitution.”

The DOJ is basing its threat of legal action on a federal law called the Rivers and Harbors Act, which “prohibits the creation of any obstruction to the navigable capacity of waters of the United States, and further prohibits building any structure in such waters without authorization from the United States Army Corps of Engineers.”

White House spokesperson Abdullah Hasan blasted Abbott’s decision, saying, “Governor Abbott’s dangerous and unlawful actions are undermining that effective plan and making it hard for the men and women of Border Patrol to do their jobs of securing the border. The governor’s actions are cruel and putting both migrants and border agents in danger.” 

PHOTO: Texas DPS video

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