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Texas Refuses to Remove Spiked Border Buoys It Claims Deter Migrants. What Are They?

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected Texas’s argument that the use of buoys to prevent migrants from seeking entry into the U.S. along the Rio Grande was needed to repel an “invasion,” adding that partisan politics will not affect the final ruling.

“This is a United States district court. It’s not Congress. It’s not the president,” Senior U.S. Judge David Alan Ezra told lawyers for the state of Texas and the U.S. Justice Department during a hearing Tuesday, ahead of an upcoming trial. The Justice Department sued the state after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott refused to remove the buoys. “I am not here to engage in any type … of political comment in this decision.”

Ezra will decide whether the string of buoys floating as a barrier in the Rio Grande should be removed permanently and no others placed in the river.

What are the buoys?

In July, Texas officials installed a string of 4-foot-wide floating orange spheres with spiked disks between them along the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass. The barrier stretches about 1,000 feet, or the equivalent of three football fields, and is anchored to the river bottom with 68 concrete blocks weighing 3,000 pounds apiece. Nets are attached to the underwater structure to prevent people from swimming under the buoys, and the buoys themselves rotate so people cannot climb over them.

A kayaker wearing a cowboy hat floats behind large orange buoys.
A kayaker passes the buoys. (Eric Gay/AP)

The Rio Grande serves the international border between the U.S. and Mexico and hosts various vehicle and pedestrian bridges that are crossed daily.

Why are they being used?

Abbott and his allies say the buoys “help deter illegal immigrants attempting to make the dangerous river crossing into Texas.” Mexican authorities argue that they endanger lives and that their placement is a “violation of our sovereignty.”

“We are concerned about the impact on migrants’ human rights and personal security that these state policies could have, as they go in the opposite direction to close collaboration,” the Mexican Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

From above, string of orange buoys can be seen stretching along center of a river.
The string of buoys used as a border barrier on the Rio Grande on July 13. (Jordan Vonderhaar/Bloomberg)

Late last month, two bodies were recovered in the Rio Grande. One was found stuck in the buoys near Eagle Pass and the other was found 3 miles away from them. The causes of death in both cases remain unclear, and it is not known whether the deaths were related.

Biden administration response

The federal government has ordered Texas to remove the buoys and sued the state when Abbott refused. Federal officials claim the installation of the barriers violates federal law, in addition to posing serious threats to navigation and public safety. Under the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the federal government controls navigable waterways.

The Justice Department’s nine-page lawsuit said Texas officials were required to obtain permission from the federal government before assembling the barriers, which they did not.

Gov. Abbott is seated near Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who are standing.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at a news conference along the Rio Grande on Monday. Behind him are Govs. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Kim Reynolds of Iowa and Kristi Noem of South Dakota. (Eric Gay/AP)

Abbott and attorneys for Texas have insisted that the governor acted within his legal authority to protect the state from an unlawful immigrant “invasion” and potential drug trafficking. In 2022, U.S. citizens made up 89% of convicted fentanyl drug traffickers — 12 times greater than convictions of illegal immigrants for the same offense, according to federal sentencing data.

Ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, Abbott acknowledged moving some of the barriers out of Mexican waters and closer to American soil “out of an abundance of caution.”

Source : Yahoo News