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Federal Court of Appeals Says Texas Floating Barriers Can Stay in Rio Grande for Now



The 5th United States Court of Appeals on Thursday evening granted a temporary stay authorizing the State of Texas to maintain floating barriers in the Rio Grande.

A lower court judge had ordered Texas to remove the barriers by September 15, at its own expense. The committee’s decision on Thursday suspends that order while the appeals court considers the case. This means that Texas is not obligated to begin the barrier removal process at this time.

The 5th Circuit’s swift decision comes a day after U.S. District Judge David Ezra wrote that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott needed permission to install the barriers, as dictated by law – a win for the Biden administration .

“Governor Abbott announced that he was not ‘seeking clearance’ for Operation Lone Star, the anti-immigration program under which Texas built the floating barrier. Unfortunately for Texas, permission is exactly what federal law requires before erecting obstructions in the nation’s navigable waters,” Ezra wrote in his decision. The judge also found Texas’ self-defense argument “unconvincing” – that the barriers had been placed in the face of the invasion.

The controversial border buoys were deployed in the Rio Grande as part of Operation Lone Star, Abbott’s border security initiative. In July, the Justice Department sued the state of Texas, claiming the buoys had been installed illegally and asking the judge to force the state to remove them.

In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, the Justice Department alleged that Texas and Abbott violated the Rivers and Harbors Act by building a structure in U.S. waters without the clearance from the US Army Corps of Engineers and requested clearance. injunction to prohibit Texas from building additional barriers in the river. The Republican governor, meanwhile, argued that the buoys were meant to deter migrants from crossing the border into the state from Mexico.

Texas, meanwhile, claimed it had the constitutional authority to deploy the floating barriers. Ezra has sometimes called for state attorneys to focus on buoys and not look at other issues like fentanyl and illegal immigration in general on the US southern border.

This story has been updated with additional details.