Court rules Texas border buoy barrier can remain in place, for now

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has voted to rehear the case, overturning a previous ruling that ordered Texas to remove the controversial barrier.
A Texas Highway Patrol boat passes a chain of buoys deployed to help curb illegal crossings along the Rio Grande.
Posted at 9:55 AM, Jan 19, 2024

A floating barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas that's drawn backlash from the Biden administration can remain in place, at least for now.

The buoy barrier near Eagle Pass, Texas, that spans approximately 1,000 feet across the Rio Grande, was installed last year as a component of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's $4 billion initiative,Operation Lone Star. He says the plan aims to deter illegal immigration and involves the arrest of migrants on trespassing charges.

Texas National Guard begins arresting migrants along US-Mexico border
Migrants entering the U.S. from Mexico.

Texas National Guard begins arresting migrants along US-Mexico border

Texas is ignoring orders from the Biden administration and preventing Border Patrol agents from accessing a stretch of land near Eagle Pass, Texas.


The controversial buoy system prompted the Department of Justice to sue, arguing that it violated federal law buy blocking a public waterway. 

"The floating barrier at issue here is a structure that obstructs the navigable capacity of the Rio Grande River, which is a navigable water of the United States within the meaning of the Rivers and Harbors Act," Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim and U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza wrote in a letter. "Texas does not have authorization from the Corps to install the floating barrier and did not seek such authorization before doing so." 

A federal district judge sided with the DOJ in September and ruled that the state must remove the buoys. A three-judge panel with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling last month in a 2-1 decision. 

Then on Wednesday, a majority of the court's 17 judges voted to vacate the previous ruling and rehear the case in May, meaning the buoy system can stay in place while the litigation process continues.