The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a ruling upholding a previous decision from a lower court, which directs Texas to remove a series of buoys that were placed in the waters of the Rio Grande. The court found that Texas had violated laws pertaining to navigable waterways by installing these barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In a 2-1 decision, the 5th Circuit Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment, stating that it had appropriately considered the impact on navigation, federal government operations on the Rio Grande, and the potential danger to human life posed by the floating barrier.
These floating buoys span approximately 1,000 feet in the Rio Grande and are anchored in the riverbed. They are arranged in a chain, extending both up and down the river, with each buoy separated by a rounded blade featuring serrated edges, resembling a circular saw.
The decision, authored by Judge Dana Douglas, who was appointed by President Biden, emphasized that the risk posed to migrants by these buoys was supported by statements made by Texas itself regarding the perils of crossing the Rio Grande.
The lower court had been critical of Texas’s arguments in defense of the buoy installation, particularly the assertion that the state had the authority to respond to what it considered an “invasion.”
The buoys were originally installed under Operation Lone Star, an anti-immigration program introduced by Governor Greg Abbott, who stated that it was necessary due to what he perceived as federal inaction at the border. However, the court’s ruling highlights that federal law requires permission before placing obstructions in the nation’s navigable waters, and Texas had not obtained such permission.