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Federal judge orders Texas to remove floating barriers aimed at deterring migrants on Rio Grande

Federal judge orders Texas to remove floating barriers aimed at deterring migrants on Rio Grande


A federal judge ordered Texas to remove floating barriers in the Rio Grande and barred the state from building new or placing additional buoys in the river, according to a Wednesday court filing, marking a victory for the Biden administration.

The judge ordered Texas to take down the barriers by September 15 at its own expense.

In July, the Justice Department sued the state of Texas over its use of floating barriers in the Rio Grande, which Gov. Greg Abbott has argued are intended to deter migrants from crossing into the state from Mexico.

In the lawsuit, filed in US District Court in the Western District of Texas, the Justice Department alleged that Texas and Abbott, a Republican, violated the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act by building a structure in US water without permission from United States Army Corps of Engineers and sought an injunction to bar Texas from building additional barriers in the river.

Judge David Alan Ezra wrote that Abbott needed permission to install the barriers, as dictated by law.

“Governor Abbott announced that he was not ‘asking for permission’ for Operation Lone Star, the anti-immigration program under which Texas constructed the floating barrier. Unfortunately for Texas, permission is exactly what federal law requires before installing obstructions in the nation’s navigable waters,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

Ezra also found Texas’ self-defense argument – that the barriers have been placed in the face of invasion – “unconvincing.”

“This argument fails because (1) the RHA has already balanced policy interests and determined that the nation’s interest in free navigation of its waterways is supreme to unauthorized state action, and (2) whether Texas’s claim of ‘invasion’ is legitimate is a non-justiciable political question demonstrably committed to the federal political branches,” he wrote.

CNN has reached out to DOJ and the state of Texas for comment.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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