Texas authorities began installing a series of buoys in the middle of the river near Eagle Pass, Texas, last week, as part of an initiative dubbed Operation Lone Star by Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to deter immigrants.
“We allege that Texas violated federal law by erecting a barrier on the Rio Grande without obtaining the required federal authorization,” Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement. “This floating barrier poses threats to navigation and public safety and raises humanitarian concerns.”
The suit, filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, seeks “removal of all structures and obstructions, including the floating barrier and all infrastructure related to the floating wall, in the Rio Grande,” according to a court filing.
US Attorney for the Western District of Texas, Jaime Esparza, threatened to take legal action in a letter sent to Abbott last week.
In response to the Justice Department’s legal warning, Abbott sent a letter Monday to Democratic President Joe Biden, accusing him of failing to enforce immigration laws and causing “a record level of illegal immigration.”
Barriers have stopped hundreds of thousands of people from entering the country illegally, Abbott said, in an interview with Fox News, and argued that the lawsuit brought by the Biden administration is based on a vague law.
“We believe we have the right to do so, and we will take this lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States,” he said.
Mexico He also complained around the barrier, saying it violated the water treaty and might encroach on Mexican territory.
In addition to the border barrier, Abbott’s Operation Lone Star also included the deployment of thousands of National Guard troops and a drive to move immigrants to Democratic-led cities in the North.
In recent months, National Guard troops have erected barbed wire to prevent migrants from crossing the Rio Grande.
The number of migrants caught illegally crossing the US-Mexico border has fallen since Biden implemented a restrictive new asylum policy in May. However, nearly 100,000 were arrested in June.
Written by Eric Beach and Kanishka Singh
(Reporting by Eric Beach, Kanishka Singh and Tyler Clifford; Editing by Tim Ahman, Bill Berkrot and Sonali Paul)