Update: The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily blocked the removal of the barriers.

A federal judge has ruled that Texas must move the border buoys in the Rio Grande River because the barriers inhibit public safety, navigation, and federal operations.

The decision has been temporarily blocked by an appeals court.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra of the Western District of Texas—a Reagan appointee—issued a preliminary injunction on Wednesday, stating that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is prohibited from placing additional barriers and must reposition the existing buoys to the bank of the Rio Grande on Texas’ side of the river.

“To the extent that further findings are required, the Court also finds that Texas’s conduct irreparably harms the public safety, navigation, and the operations of federal agency officials in and around the Rio Grande,” wrote Ezra.

The lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice argued that the barriers violate the Rivers and Harbors Act and pose an immediate threat to navigation and public safety.

Ezra agreed with the Biden administration’s arguments, saying the barrier obstructs navigable waters. He also said that Texas would need authorization from Congress and requires a permit from the Army Corps to place buoys in the river.

Meanwhile, Texas has maintained that the barriers were placed to deter illegal immigration and constructed pursuant to the Self-Defense Clause in the U.S. Constitution.

Ezra disagreed with Texas, saying that only the federal government—not the states—have the authority to recognize and respond to invasions. In his opinion, Ezra also asserted that “the State of Texas did not present any credible evidence that the buoy barrier as installed has significantly curtailed illegal immigration across the Rio Grande River.”

The 1,000-foot barrier spans only a tiny fraction of the state’s 1,240-mile border with Mexico, but law enforcement officials said it was working to stop illegal border crossings.

Shortly after the ruling was released, Abbott released a statement saying the ruling was incorrect and the state will appeal.

“Texas will appeal. Today’s court decision merely prolongs President Biden’s willful refusal to acknowledge that Texas is rightfully stepping up to do the job that he should have been doing all along,” wrote Abbott. “We will continue to utilize every strategy to secure the border, including deploying Texas National Guard soldiers and Department of Public Safety troopers and installing strategic barriers.”

“Our battle to defend Texas’ sovereign authority to protect lives from the chaos caused by President Biden’s open border policies has only begun. Texas is prepared to take this fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he added.

Cary Cheshire, executive director of Texans for Strong Borders, told Texas Scorecard that Abbott should reject the judge’s order and keep the buoys in the river:

The court’s ruling that Texas must stop defending itself at Joe Biden’s orders is an affront to the law. The U.S. and Texas Constitutions place clear authority to repel an invasion with the governor. We believe Gov. Greg Abbott should defy this order, leave the buoys in place, and escalate efforts to secure the Texas Border.

On Thursday evening, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals moved to temporarily allow the barriers to stay up as they consider the case.

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.