AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday over the state’s floatation barrier along the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass that the federal government says violates international and federal law.
In the lawsuit, the DOJ argues Texas’ construction of buoys in the river violates the Rivers and Harbor Act, as it obstructs the “navigable capacity” of U.S. water. The filing also notes Texas did not obtain a prior permit from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers as required by the act.
The Biden administration is asking the courts to stop Texas from putting any more barriers in the water and to remove the current 1,000-foot stretch of buoys at its own expense.
“Because Texas installed the Floating Barrier without seeking the Corps’ authorization, the Corps and other relevant federal agencies were deprived of the opportunity to evaluate risks the barrier poses to public safety and the environment, mitigate those risks as necessary through the permitting process, and otherwise evaluate whether the project is in the public interest,” the lawsuit said.
Earlier Monday morning, Abbott rebuked the Department of Justice’s threat to sue Texas over the buoy barriers he ordered into the river and welcomed a federal lawsuit, in a hostile letter to President Joe Biden.
“Texas will see you in court, Mr. President,” Abbott wrote Friday. “The fact is, if you would just enforce the immigration laws Congress already has on the books, America would not be suffering from your record-breaking level of illegal immigration.”
The bright-orange buoys are floating in the river just outside Eagle Pass, a border city that has seen about 270,000 encounters with migrants this year.
The Department of Justice on Friday warned Texas the state does not have the authority to erect such a barrier in international waters or attempt to enforce federal immigration laws.
“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.
Abbott took issue with the DOJ’s legal justification earlier Monday.
“Your lawyers’ claim that Texas’s floating marine barriers violate Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act misses the mark,” he wrote. “That statute does not describe any action by the State of Texas.”
Abbott also cited Arizona v. United States, a 2012 Supreme Court case that delineated federal and state jurisdiction over immigration, to assert Texas’ “sovereign interest in protecting [her] borders.”