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DOJ Threatens Legal Action Against Texas Over Border Moves

The Department of Justice has informed Texas that it is ready to file a legal action against the state because of its barrier of buoys in the Rio Grande intended to block migrants from crossing from Mexico into the U.S., according to reports – the latest in the yearslong battle between the Biden administration and Texas over the situation at the Southwest border.

In a letter sent to the office of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, first obtained and reported by the Houston Chronicle and CNN, the department said Texas is violating the Rivers and Harbors Act by not getting authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before placing the buoys. The department thus intends “to seek appropriate legal remedies, which may include seeking injunctive relief requiring the removal of obstructions or other structures in the Rio Grande River.”

“The State of Texas’s actions violate federal law, raise humanitarian concerns, present serious risks to public safety and the environment, and may interfere with the federal government’s ability to carry out its official duties,” reads the letter, which was published in full by The Washington Post.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Jaime Esparza noted in the letter that the department welcomes “the opportunity to have a discussion between our leadership and Texas’s leadership concerning this prospective litigation.”

Abbott responded on Twitter, saying Texas has the “sovereign authority” to defend its border and pinning the blame on Biden for his “refusal” to secure it.

“We will continue to deploy every strategy to protect Texans and Americans – and the migrants risking their lives,” Abbott wrote. “We will see you in court, Mr. President.”

The news comes after the Houston Chronicle already reported accounts of Texas officers being ordered to push migrants back into the river. Following the reports, Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas and more than 80 other House Democrats on Friday wrote to the Biden administration, calling for them to investigate Abbott’s border operation.

The actions are all part of the governor’s so-called Operation Lone Star, launched in March 2021 as a joint effort between the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to deter migrants in lieu of what Abbott has described as the absence of federal action. 

The operation, which reportedly has cost billions, is the subject of frequent boasts by the governor on social media. Most recently, officials installed the “floating marine barriers” in the Rio Grande and added miles of razor wire along the border elsewhere.

GOP governors – such as Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – in several other states have assisted in the effort by sending their respective National Guard troops to Texas.