AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Justice Department on Monday sued Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott over a floating barrier that the state placed on the Rio Grande to stop migrants from crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.
The lawsuit asks a court to force Texas to remove a roughly 1,000-foot (305-meter) line of bright orange, wrecking ball-sized buoys that the Biden administration says raises humanitarian and environmental concerns. The suit also claims that Texas unlawfully installed the barrier along without permission near the border city of Eagle Pass.
The buoys are the latest escalation of Texas’ border security operation that also includes razor-wire fencing, arresting migrants on trespassing charges and sending busloads of asylum-seekers to Democratic-led cities in other states.
In anticipation of the lawsuit, Abbott sent President Joe Biden a letter Monday that defended Texas’ right to install the barrier. He accused Biden of putting migrants at risk by not doing more to deter them from making the journey to the U.S.
“Texas will see you in court, Mr. President,” Abbott wrote in his letter.
The Biden administration has said illegal border crossings have declined significantly since new immigration rules took effect in May.
The Justice Department warned Texas in a letter last week that the state had until Monday to commit to removing the barrier or face a lawsuit. The letter said the buoy wall “poses a risk to navigation, as well as public safety, in the Rio Grande River, and it presents humanitarian concerns.”
The state deployed the buoys without notifying the International Boundary and Water Commission or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mexico’s secretary of state asked the federal government to intervene, saying the barrier violates international treaties.
Gonzalez reported from McAllen, Texas.