Federal Court Orders Removal ofRio Grande River Barriers

A tense battle between the Federal government and Texas Governor Abbott’s administration continues to develop this week as a federal court ruled ordering the state to remove its anti-migration barriers on an international waterway. The floating barriers, placed along the Rio Grande River in Southern Texas, seek to prevent individuals from illegally crossing the border. The barriers were established in early July as part of Governor Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star.”

The Rio Grande serves as a natural boundary between the American and Mexican land borders, separating over 800 miles of the nations’ respective land. Due to increased security and scrutiny near designated border crossings, as well as the heightened monitoring of the areas protected by a pre-existing border wall, some migrants see swimming across the river as a viable option. This is an especially dangerous choice as one’s lack of water confidence and/or the river’s natural currents can result in fatal outcomes. Due to the increased use of the Rio Grande as a crossing, water related migration deaths have tripled year-over-year as of late.

The barriers are constructed of an ordered line of rolling plastic balls, separated by sharp circular blades, with additional nets underneath, making them both deadly and nearly impossible to successfully cross the portions of the river where the state has deployed them.

Additionally, lacerations from the barriers’ saw blades can lead to infectious diseases, making migrants more susceptible to losing limbs and even death. The dangers attributed to these barriers have led to widespread condemnation.

More importantly, the Rio Grande is an international body of water, governed by the International Boundary and Water Commission, a joint organization between Mexico and the US that manages the river. Interference from states in the Rio Grande can have other unknown economic and societal implications.

Since their deployment in early July, a multitude of federal actors, notably from the Biden Administration, have stepped in to force the state to remove the barriers. The ruling passed down last week by federal judge David A. Ezra, of the U.S. District Court ordered the state of Texas to remove the barriers by September 15. Although the Abbott administration immediately filed an appeal in the Fifth Circuit, this has marked a key turning point in the interpretation of federalism in the Biden Administration as it has, although preliminarily, struck down a major state policy.

Additionally, voices across the political spectrum have stepped up to dissent against the actions of the Abbott administration.

A political science student who wished to remain anonymous, said, “Although my beliefs lean to the right and I believe that we should take steps to secure our borders, making the already dangerous waterway more difficult to cross is a travesty against our human nature. The people who try to cross our southern border are merely seeking a better life and shouldn’t be forced to endure even further treacherous conditions.”

Some argue that the barriers are a necessary step to secure our southern border. Texas State Senator Bryan Hughes posted this on his personal LinkedIn account, accompanied by a picture of the aquatic barriers: “Texas is stepping up to secure our nation’s border. This is the greatest country in the world, and it’s worth defending.” This viewpoint is shared by a surprising portion of the state, with over 42% of Texans supporting this policy, according to a recent poll conducted by Newsweek.

Although the United States’ immigration policy is constantly changing, and there is no deemed “perfect” solution illegal immigration, the topic certainly evokes a variety of opinions.