DOJ sues Texas and Gov. Abbott over use of buoys in Rio Grande to stop migrants

"Texas will see you in court, Mr. President," the governor wrote.

July 24, 2023, 4:32 PM

The Department of Justice on Monday sued the state of Texas and Gov. Greg Abbott over a new floating barrier of buoys in the Rio Grande River intended to keep migrants from crossing into the U.S.

The DOJ on Friday had warned Abbott about his administration's use of the ballards.

"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," read the letter, obtained by ABC News.

Migrants who crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico walk past large buoys being deployed as a border barrier on the river in Eagle Pass, Texas, July 12, 2023.
Eric Gay/AP

Last week, Abbott had the ballards installed in the river in an effort to deter migrants from crossing.

"Texas's unauthorized construction of the floating barrier is a prima facie violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act. This floating barrier poses a risk to navigation, as well as public safety, in the Rio Grande River, and it presents humanitarian concerns," the Justice Department's Friday letter stated. "Thus, we intend to seek appropriate legal remedies, which may include seeking injunctive relief requiring the removal of obstructions or other structures in the Rio Grande River."

Buoy barriers are installed and situated in the middle of the Rio Grande river, July 18, 2023, in Eagle Pass, Texas.
Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Abbott responded, "Texas has the sovereign authority to defend our border, under the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution. We have sent the Biden Administration numerous letters detailing our authority, including the one I hand-delivered to President Biden earlier this year."

The governor doubled down in a letter sent to President Joe Biden on Monday, reiterating his claim that the Constitution grants Texas the "sovereign authority" to protect its borders because of Biden's alleged failure to combat illegal border crossings.

"Texas will see you in court, Mr. President," Abbott wrote, hours before the DOJ announced its suit.

Abbott's office has also unveiled a page on his website dedicated to touting Operation Lone Star's efforts to combat the "humanitarian crisis" he blames on President Joe Biden.

Abbott's press release page, dated Friday, says his administration, with Texas' Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard, are "continuing to work together to secure the border; stop the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and people into Texas; and prevent, detect, and interdict transnational criminal behavior between ports of entry," citing statistics on the hundreds of thousands of apprehensions and criminal arrests the operation has achieved.

"Operation Lone Star continues to fill the dangerous gaps created by the Biden Administration's refusal to secure the border. Every individual who is apprehended or arrested and every ounce of drugs seized would have otherwise made their way into communities across Texas and the nation due to President Joe Biden's open border policies," the page says.

ABC News' Armando Garcia and Sasha Pezenik contributed to this report.

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