WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nexstar) — The Department of Justice (DOJ) is preparing to sue Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for the state’s latest border security initiative under Texas’ Operation Lone Star, according to a DOJ letter obtained by Nexstar.
First reported by the Houston Chronicle, the DOJ sent Abbott a letter on Thursday warning that the buoy barrier the state deployed along the Rio Grande is unlawful. Texas announced the initiative in early June as a way to deter migrants from crossing the Mexican side of the river into Texas, near Eagle Pass.
“The State of Texas’ 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,” the department wrote, according to a copy obtained by Hearst Newspapers.
Abbott responded on Twitter Friday writing “Texas has the sovereign authority to defend our border, under the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution.”
We have sent the Biden Administration numerous letters detailing our authority, including the one I hand-delivered to President Biden earlier this year.
The tragic humanitarian crisis on the border was created because of Biden’s refusal to secure the border. His open border policies encourage migrants to risk their lives crossing illegally through the Rio Grande, instead of safely and legally over a bridge.
Texas is stepping up to address this crisis. We will continue to deploy every strategy to protect Texans and Americans — and the migrants risking their lives.
We will see you in court, Mr. President.Abbott statement via Twitter
Abbott announced the initiative by using a natural disaster declaration, stating it was another strategy in his Operation Lone Star to prevent migrants from crossing. State leaders said, in turn, the physical deterrent would hopefully lead to fewer migrant deaths related to drowning while swimming across the Rio Grande.
If the DOJ follows through with legal action, it would be the second lawsuit Texas faces after installing the flotation devices. Jessie Fuentes, a local business owner in Eagle Pass, was the first to sue Abbott over the floating barriers. Fuentes, who owns Epi’s Canoe & Kayak Team, filed a suit last Friday asking a court to remove the buoys, citing they will halt his business by preventing him to give tours on the Rio Grande, causing “imminent and irreparable harm.”
Reaction on Capitol Hill
Also on Friday, dozens of Congressional Democrats penned a letter to President Joe Biden, asking to intervene after reports of migrants being injured at the border as a result of Operation Lone Star policies.
“Operation Lone Star’s programs and policies, specifically the recent erection of razor
wire or buoy walls, pose a huge danger to migrants and impedes the ability of our border
patrol offices to safely and humanely treat migrants as well as to comply with relevant
federal and international laws. As Governor Abbott continues to escalate his efforts on
the border, we urge you to take the above actions and stop this horrific abuse of power,” the letter said.
Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, who led the letter, told Nexstar that the federal government has been looking into possible civil rights violations under Operation Lone Star for more than a year.
“I think what finally got them to act is that Greg Abbott’s policies now have become so barbaric…these are just horrific things that shocked the conscience,” he said.
As for the buoys, Castro said the initiative is a clear violation of international and federal law.
“I do think that there’s a reason why previous Texas governors have not taken a similar action, because they understood that this is a federal authority,” he said. “What you do in an international body of water is not, has nothing to do with state authority. That’s federal authority. And so I do think that Governor Abbott is going to end up being shut down in court.”
At a Wednesday press conference on Capitol Hill, Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, responded to reporters’ questions about concerns over the buoys and defended Abbott’s initiatives under Operation Lone Star.
“Well, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if President Biden and the Department of Homeland Security were doing its job,” Cornyn said. “Some of the tactics that are being used at the border are desperation tactics because, frankly, the Biden administration is not doing its job…I’m glad Governor Abbott’s willing to take the measures that he thinks is necessary.”