EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A group of Texas Democrats is urging the White House to look into Gov. Greg Abbott’s use of floating aquatic barriers on the Rio Grande, calling it “yet another dangerous stunt.”
Abbott announced Friday that the large orange buoys had arrived in Eagle Pass, Texas, and installation would begin immediately, adding that the Texas Department of Public Safety was overseeing the project.
On Monday, a DPS spokesman told Border Report that concrete was being laid on the riverbed of the Rio Grande to anchor a 1,000-foot-long string of giant orange buoys.
The buoys border barrier system is part of the governor’s border security initiative known as Operation Lone Star, which includes sending DPS troopers and members of the Texas Army National Guard to the border, as well as busing migrants to Democratic-led cities like New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.
In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Texas lawmakers, led by U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar of El Paso, accuse Abbott of political posturing, undermining the federal government and misusing state resources to interfere with federal immigration and security responsibilities.
“Governor Abbott is not only wasting taxpayer dollars with these stunts (the first segment of the floating barrier is estimated to cost $1 million), he is once again choosing inhumane and dangerous practices that intimidate, endanger, and hurt migrants and their families and put CBP personnel at risk,” the lawmakers wrote.
The lawmakers said Abbott failed to notify and collaborate with the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), adding that the barriers may warrant potential violations of international law.
Abbott on Thursday tweeted a picture of crews installing the buoys in waist-high water in the Rio Grande.
“Marine barrier installation making progress in Eagle Pass,” he said. “Texas will use every tool and strategy to respond to this border crisis.”
The buoys will create a layering effect when combined with concertina wire laid on the bank of the river, a DSP spokesman told Border Report.
In their letter, however, the Texas lawmakers outline possible violations. They wrote that by placing buoys in the Rio Grande, Abbott trespasses on IBWC property and may violate the Boundary Treaty of 1970 and the Mexican Water Treaty of 1944; Abbott may be interfering with the natural flow of the river, potentially shifting the boundary between Mexico and the United States causing the United States to cede land to Mexico; and buoys may also violate the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo by obstructing the ability to navigate of the river, which is relied on by both the United States and Mexico.
“Installing the aquatic barriers will undermine and impact the work of the IBWC, USACE, put asylum seekers’ lives at risk, and impede CBP’s operations,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge the DOJ and DOS to take immediate action regarding this matter and the potential violations and obstructionism.”
Shortly after Abbott announced plans to install the buoys in the river, the IBWC, which oversees joint water resources with Mexico and enforces boundary treaties, told Border Report that they were “caught by surprise,” adding that it was studying the state’s proposal.
In a statement to Border Report, the IBWC said: “Our door is always open to discussions with Texas and we have recently shared information with them about our permitting process and federal law. We are studying what Texas is publicly proposing to determine whether and how this impacts our mission to carry out treaties between the US and Mexico regarding border delineation, flood control, and water distribution, which includes the Rio Grande.”
The IBWC on Friday told Border Report that the agency is still studying the buoy plan and will monitor developments.
According to the lawmakers’ letter, in 2020, the Department of Homeland Security opted not to purchase the buoy barrier system because it posed a risk to federal law enforcement agents on the ground and increased migrants’ risk of drowning.
That decision followed a demonstration of the buoy barrier by its manufacturer, Cochrane.
U.S. Reps. Escobar, Jasmine Crockett, Colin Allred, Sylvia Garcia, Greg Casar, Marc Veasey, Al Green and Joaquin Castro signed the letter.