The U.S. Department of Justice is asking a federal court to halt further construction of Texas’ border buoys. 

The DOJ wants to block additional structures from being built in the Rio Grande River without authorization from the United States Army Corps of Engineers. If the injunction is approved, the corps of engineers will also help to remove the barriers from the river. 

The injunction claims the barrier violates the Rivers and Harbors Act, and the government attorneys assert that the marine buoys pose an immediate threat to navigation and public safety. 

“The Floating Barrier is already causing substantial and ongoing harm to the United States’ conduct of foreign relations, poses an imminent risk to public safety and navigation, and interferes with the operations of federal agency officials in the river,” wrote the DOJ lawyers. “Those harms outweigh any harm a preliminary injunction might cause Texas.”

The DOJ notes that because Mexico disapproves of the barriers, foreign relations between Mexico and the United States could be harmed if they remain in place. 

“On numerous occasions since late June, the Government of Mexico has lodged protests with the United States, including at the highest diplomatic levels, regarding Texas’s deployment of the Floating Barrier,” asserts the attorneys. “Mexico has asserted that the Floating Barrier violates various international treaties.”

Gov. Greg Abbott first installed the barriers in early July. Since then, Abbott has faced multiple challenges against his border buoy barrier initiative.

In early July, an Eagle Pass business owner filed a lawsuit against Abbott, the State of Texas, and the Texas Department of Public Safety, explaining that the buoy barrier has led to the cancellation of kayak events and will cause long-term “imminent and irreparable harm” to his business. A week later, Mexico filed a diplomatic complaint with the United States, suggesting the barriers may violate a 1944 treaty between the two countries. 

Shortly after, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit arguing that Texas flouted federal law by installing the barriers. 

Despite the challenges, Abbott has said he welcomes the legal fight. In a letter to President Joe Biden, Abbott wrote that the barriers would not have been installed if the administration “would just enforce the immigration laws Congress already has on the books.” 

Unless the court grants a preliminary injunction, the marine barriers will remain in place until the court rules on the matter.

Gov. Abbott and U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza have not responded to a request for comment.

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.