Amid border row, Biden Administration sues Texas for blocking migrants from crossing Rio Grande river
The Joe Biden administration has filed a lawsuit against the Texas state over deploying water barriers in the Rio Grande aimed to block migrants from crossing into the US from Mexico. In the lawsuit, the Department of Justice is asking the US District Court in the Western District of Texas to force the state to remove the existing marine barriers and stop building more in the border river, Xinhua news agency reported.
The department on Monday alleged that Texas and its Republican Governor Greg Abbott violated the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act by building a structure in US water without permission from the US Army Corps of Engineers. The marine barriers “constitute an unauthorized obstruction to the navigable capacity of waters of the United States”, according to the lawsuit. “We allege that Texas has flouted federal law by installing a barrier in the Rio Grande without obtaining the required federal authorization,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement. “This floating barrier poses threats to navigation and public safety and presents humanitarian concerns. Additionally, the presence of the floating barrier has prompted diplomatic protests by Mexico and risks damaging US foreign policy,” Gupta continued.
Abbott said earlier on Monday that he would not order the removal of the floating barriers as required by the Justice Department. “Texas will fully utilize our sovereign authority to respond to the border crisis,” the Governor tweeted. “The US Constitution grants Texas sovereign authority to protect its borders because the President refuses to enforce federal immigration laws,” said Abbott in a letter sent to Biden on Monday in response to the lawsuit. “Texas will see you in court, Mr. President,” the Governor announced, highlighting Texas’s right to defend its borders. Under the federal law, it’s prohibited to create “any obstruction to the navigable capacity of waters of the US, and … any structure in such waters without authorisation from the US Army Corps of Engineers”.
In the wake of the end of Title 42 in May, Abbott said his government plans to install a floating water barrier, with the use of buoys, to deter migrants from crossing the border in heavily trafficked areas of the river. The first 1,000-foot stretch had been placed by July 7 in Eagle Pass, western Texas, which shares the border with the Mexican city of Piedras Negras. A canoe and kayaking company based in Texas already filed a lawsuit against the water barrier installation earlier this month. The governor is facing separate scrutiny on the treatment of migrants since the Texas Department of Public Safety has received several complaints saying that Texas troopers were told to push back migrants into the Rio Grande and ordered not to give them water in spite of the current cruel heatwave.
The alleged mistreatment has drawn criticism from the White House and a number of Democratic lawmakers, though Abbott’s office denied any orders have been given that “would compromise the lives of those attempting to cross the border illegally.” “What you see the governor doing is dangerous and unlawful,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters later on Monday. “The one person that is sowing chaos is Governor Abbott. That’s where he continues to do political stunts in an inhumane way.” The three-term governor has been fiercely slamming Biden’s border policy since the first day when the president took office.