NEW ORLEANS, LA – The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order on Friday directing Texas to remove a floating barrier placed in the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass this past summer, affirming a prior ruling by a lower court.
In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the court determined that the river is navigable at the location of the barrier and labeled it an "obstruction." This designation necessitated Texas to seek permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before deploying the barrier, as the Corps regulates activities in waterways and wetlands under federal law.
Judge Don Willett, a Trump appointee, dissented from the ruling, contending that the Rio Grande cannot accommodate commercial boat traffic and, therefore, does not meet the navigable criteria.
Texas asserted that the barrier aimed to both save lives and compel migrants to use official border entry points. However, Willett argued that Texas failed to substantiate these claims.
Governor Greg Abbott criticized the ruling, labeling it "clearly wrong" and announced intentions to pursue an immediate rehearing by the entire Fifth Circuit, hinting at potential escalation to the U.S. Supreme Court to safeguard Texas from what he termed "Biden’s open borders."
The barrier, deployed in June as part of Operation Lone Star, a comprehensive initiative by Abbott to curb illegal immigration along the 1,200-mile border, cost Texas $850,000. It consists of a 1,000-foot-long string of buoys separated by saw blades supporting a submerged mesh net, designed to dissuade migrants from crossing the Rio Grande.
The installation of these barriers triggered protests from the Mexican government and migrant advocates. In response, in July, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Texas in an Austin federal court, asserting that the barrier was erected without mandated federal authorization. Texas countered, asserting that the barrier was devised to steer migrants toward lawful entry points and deter illicit border crossings and drug trafficking.