In defiance of a request from the Department of Justice, Texas Governor Greg Abbott told President Joe Biden Monday that he will not order the removal of floating barriers from the Rio Grande River.
“To end the risk that migrants will be harmed crossing the border illegally, you must fully enforce the laws of the United States that prohibit illegal immigration between ports of entry,” wrote Abbott in a letter to Biden after the Justice Department requested he remove the barriers last week. “In the meantime, Texas will fully utilize its constitutional authority to deal with the crisis you have caused.”
Thursday, the DOJ said it plans to file a lawsuit against Texas for the placement of the floating barriers in the Rio Grande River, according to a letter obtained by CNN and sources familiar with the matter who spoke to the outlet.
According to the letter sent to Abbott, the Justice Department set a deadline of Monday at 2 p.m. ET for Texas to commit to removing the floating barriers before legal action would be taken.
When addressing President Biden, the GOP governor said he had “asserted Texas’ sovereign interest” in protecting the state’s borders with the marine barriers in his “role as commander-in-chief of our State’s militia under Article IV, section 7 of the Texas Constitution.”
White House called Abbott’s actions “dangerous and unlawful”
The White House, in response, called Abbott’s actions “dangerous and unlawful.”
“Gov. Abbott’s dangerous and unlawful actions are undermining that effective plan and making it hard for the men and women of Border Patrol to do their jobs of securing the border,” said White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan to CNN. “The governor’s actions are cruel and putting both migrants and border agents in danger.”
“If Gov. Abbott truly wanted to drive toward real solutions, he’d be asking his Republican colleagues in Congress, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, why they voted against President Biden’s request for record funding for the Department of Homeland Security and why they’re blocking comprehensive immigration reform and border security measures to finally fix our broken immigration system,” said Hasan.
The DOJ’s threat of legal action is based on a clause in the Rivers and Harbors Act that “prohibits the creation of any obstruction to the navigable capacity of waters of the United States, and further prohibits building any structure in such waters without authorization from the United States Army Corps of Engineers.”
Texas is already facing a lawsuit brought by the owner of the Texas kayaking and canoe company. The suit was filed the same day Texas began deploying buoys to form a floating barrier. According to CNN, it lists Abbott and the state of Texas, as well as the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas National Guard.
The river barrier stretches 1,000 feet along the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, Texas, which has long been a popular spot for attempted border crossings. It consists of buoys designed to prevent people from wading across.
In early July, before the floating barricade was installed, four people drowned in the river attempting to cross near Eagle Pass.
Last week, the Department of Justice told Texas to remove the floating barrier. The feds said the barrier itself was illegal, as it overstepped federal authority to control the borders of the U.S.