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Federal court allows Texas to keep floating border buoys despite legal challenge from Biden DOJ

 September 10, 2023

In a Thursday decision, a federal appeals court has permitted the state of Texas to maintain its deployment of floating buoys in the Rio Grande.

The stay is temporary while the broader debate over their placement progresses through the legal system, as Fox News reported.

Previously, a judge had directed the state to shift these floating buoys to the bank of the river, a decision meant to be implemented by Sept. 15th. 

However, this latest ruling potentially halts the need for any immediate action regarding the repositioning of the buoys.

Governor's Effort to Manage Migrant Flow

Initiated in July, the buoys' installation was one of the steps taken by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to manage the increased influx of migrants via the southern border.

This strategy was launched under the wider umbrella of Abbott's Operation Lone Star.

The chosen location for the buoy barrier was near the border town, Eagle Pass. The buoys were strategically anchored in the riverbed.

This specific Border Patrol sector has been in the spotlight of late, having registered the second-highest volume of migrant crossings during this fiscal year, with encounters nearing the 270,000 mark.

Texas Defends Buoy Placement 

The decision from the appeals court based in New Orleans permits the barrier to stay in the river as the legal proceedings move forward, and it came after a swift back-and-forth with the lower court.

On Wednesday, Judge David Ezra of the U.S. District Court in Austin directed Texas to reposition the approximately 1,000-foot (305-meter) barrier from the Rio Grande's center to its bank.

He labeled it as a potential hazard to human lives and an impediment to the river's flow.

This barrier has also been a point of contention for the Mexican government.

In a prompt appeal to allow the continuation of the buoys, Texas told the court that these buoys guide migrants toward official entry points, as the Associated Press reported, and the appeals court ultimately sided with the state -- at least for now. 

Officials also emphasized that there haven't been any reported injuries linked to these buoys. 

A body was discovered in proximity to the buoys last month. Texas authorities preliminarily suggested that the individual may have drowned before approaching the barriers.

Legal Challenges and Concerns Raised

The U.S. Justice Department took issue with Texas' installation of the buoys earlier this summer, alleging that the state had effectively set up a barrier on an international boundary without obtaining the requisite permissions.

Additionally, the Biden administration weighed in on the matter, expressing both humanitarian and environmental reservations regarding the water barrier.