EAGLE PASS, Texas (Border Report) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday showed off to four fellow Republican governors the controversial new border buoys installed as part of his border security initiative in the middle of the Rio Grande in this South Texas border town.
After the tour, in response to a question from Border Report, Abbott confirmed that the State of Texas has moved the string of buoys farther north toward the U.S. shore. This came after a survey last week by the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) found most of the buoys in the 1,000-foot-long string were actually on the Mexican side of the international river.
“The buoys had drifted toward the Mexico side. And so out of an abundance of caution, Texas went back and moved the buoys to a location where it is clear they are on the United States side, not on the Mexican side,” Abbott said at a news conference after the group’s aerial tour of the border.
Abbott was joined by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds; Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen; Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on the banks of the Rio Grande overlooking the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras.
All four visiting governors declared the immigration situation on the South Texas border a “crisis” and used words like “war zone” and “ground zero” to describe the situation.
“Texas has been ground zero for over two years because of the Biden-created catastrophe that we see at the southern border, whether it’s a lack of security or public safety. It’s just an assault on our democracy,” Reynolds said.
Pillen said he is a pig farmer and he declared criticisms toward the marine buoy “hogwash.”
“It’s a misrepresentation of what’s happening on the border,” Pillen said. “We are fighting cartels that are trying to kill our kids. We have to do the work.”
Abbott said that all four visiting governors have pledged to send troops to the Texas border from their state.
“They are deploying military and/or law enforcement officers to help Texas secure the border,” Abbott said.
Altogether, Abbott says that 15 states have pledged to send law enforcement to Texas’ border, and 10 other states are sending various other kinds of support.
“Half of the states of the United States of America are banding together to step up and secure a border that President Biden has abandoned,” Abbott said.
Their visit came after the Department of Homeland Security on Friday released immigration border apprehension statistics for July, which found illegal crossings dramatically increased by one-third from June. This included over 60,000 migrant families arrested crossing the Southwest border in July, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.
The Justice Department has sued Abbott and the State of Texas saying the 1,000-foot-long string of spherical buoys violate the Rivers and Harbor Act of 1899, which “prohibits the unauthorized obstruction or alteration of any navigable water of the U.S.” That includes “construction of any structure in or over any navigable water of the U.S., or the accomplishment of any other work affecting the course, location, condition, or physical capacity of such waters,” according to the law.
A hearing on the case is set for Tuesday in Austin.
Texas has spent over $5 billion on Operation Lone Star since it started in 2021.
In a tweet prior to his visit, Stitt boasted about sending Oklahoma National Guard “to help to Texas to help clean up Biden’s Border Crisis,” he wrote.
After the tour, he told media, “Every state is a border state and Oklahoma is a border state to Texas.”
Stitt said deaths from fentanyl have increased by 500% in the past year and he attributes it to drugs crossing the border from Mexico.
“We came here and are witnessing a war zone,” Noem, of South Dakota said Monday after the tour.
The group of governors spoke to the media Monday at Shelby Park, the same location the mayor of Eagle Pass had converted the into private land so Operation Lone Star forces and equipment could be staged there, including the massive buoys. But last month, the Eagle Pass City Council voted to rescind that order and keep the park open to the public.
The park was blocked off to the public Monday due to the visits.
Standing outside of a line guarded by Texas state troopers, Jose Corpus, of Eagle Pass, held a sign reading “WE WANT OUR PARK BACK.”
Eagle Pass resident Americus Garcia was beside him. She opposes the border buoys and told Border Report the devices are inhumane and unnecessary.
“They aren’t even in the United States. They’re in Mexico. So they aren’t a barrier in any way, shape or form. The buoys are a complete failure, just like Operation Lone Star,” Garcia said.
A representative from the Mexican division of the IBWC was on the border watching the buoys on Monday afternoon. He told Border Report that construction to move the buoy string into U.S. territory began Thursday afternoon and was nearly completed.
Mike Banks, Texas’ border czar who was appointed by Abbott, told Border Report the string prevents migrants from crossing because of its design. They can’t climb over it, he said.
“If you try to climb on the buoy, the buoy will roll back to prevent you from climbing on it,” Banks said.
He added that a metal circle in between the 4-foot spherical balls is “to prevent tampering,” not designed to hurt migrants.
On Monday, Border Report witnessed several migrants walk around the buoy string. They said they were from Colombia and Honduras.
And while they weren’t injured going around the buoys, several suffered cut feet and legs from trying to climb the concertina wire at a gap in the fencing.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.