AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The state of Texas could be forced to remove its barrier of buoys along the Rio Grande River near Eagle Pass, if a federal judge agrees with the U.S. Department of Justice that Texas overstepped its constitutional authority by installing the flotation devices.
The Biden administration filed suit against Gov. Greg Abbott in late July over the state’s floatation barrier, arguing it violates international and federal law. In the lawsuit, the DOJ said 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.
Federal attorneys are 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. U.S. District Judge David Ezra will heard arguments in the case Tuesday. Depending on his ruling, the case is almost certain to progress further in the judicial system with either side likely to appeal. Additionally, Abbott has vowed to take the lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
Abbott held a joint-press conference in Eagle Pass on Monday with governors from Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Oklahoma where the Republican leaders fired back against criticism about the buoys.
“If you look at the treaty between the United States and Mexico, that treaty specifically references buoys, as a device that can be allowed in these waters between the United States and Mexico,” Abbott said. “It’s highly recognized that buoys were acceptable and not a deterrent to navigable waters.”
A coalition of activists and Eagle Pass residents against the buoys will hold an 8 a.m. press conference outside the federal courthouse in Austin before the hearing begins. Robie Flores, an Eagle Pass resident, said in a press release that he is appalled by the buoys.
Watch the full press conference below:
“It made me sick to my stomach to learn that other governors are standing for this cruelty and support this violence against our communities,” Flores said. “Eagle Pass is a loving and peaceful community, Operation Lone Star has deeply harmed us and the cruelty has to stop.”
The judge asked for counsel to submit written closing arguments by 4 p.m. Friday, rather than give them at the conclusion of Tuesday’s hearing. Ezra made a point to remind the courtroom that his decision will be based on the facts of the case and he does not intent to answer any political questions in his ruling.