DOJ sues Texas over Rio Grande barriers; Abbott says feds ‘left me no other choice’



On the same day the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil complaint against Texas over a floating barrier of buoys strung together in the Rio Grande River, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to President Joe Biden saying that Texas has a right to defend its border.

The Department of Justice said the floating barrier was constructed without federal authorization as required under the Rivers and Harbors Act and creates a humanitarian threat. The complaint seeks to stop construction of the barrier and to require Texas to remove it.

But Abbott is having none of it.

The Texas governor’s formal letter sent Monday is a follow up to the notice he gave on Friday in response to the DOJ saying its civil action was coming. DOJ’s lawsuit also was filed Monday.

Abbott’s two-page letter copies Attorney General Merrick Garland and three Texas officials: the provisional attorney general and heads of the Texas Military Department and Department of Public Safety. He also includes copies of two letters he previously sent to the president, the first of which was sent last November explaining Texas’ constitutional right to secure its border. The second he hand delivered on Jan. 8, 2023, outlining solutions the president could take immediately to secure the border.

Abbott, a former Texas Supreme Court justice, wrote, “In accordance with Article I, § 10, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, I have asserted Texas’s “sovereign interest in protecting [her] borders,” citing Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case, Arizona v. United States. “I have done so in my role as the commander-in-chief of our State’s militia under Article IV, § 7 of the Texas Constitution,” citing a ruling in the 2023 case, Abbott v. Biden, when the federal judge in this case held that “the Constitution forbids President Biden from bypassing the States [and] stepping into Governor Abbott’s shoes.”

Abbott also states that the president’s “ongoing violation of Article IV, § 4 of the U.S. Constitution has left me no other choice” than to secure the Texas border and block illegal entry. He also points to arguments he made in the letters he previously sent and reiterates what he told the president in El Paso, Texas, on Jan. 8: “All of this is happening because you have violated your constitutional obligation to defend the States against invasion through faithful execution of federal laws.”

In response to DOJ attorneys claiming Texas’s floating marine barriers violate Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, Abbott says their analysis “misses the mark. In that statute, Congress decreed that ‘it shall not be lawful to build . . . any wharf, pier, dolphin, boom, weir, breakwater, bulkhead, jetty, or other structures in any . . . water of the United States.’

“To state the obvious, that statute does not describe any action by the State of Texas.”

Texas began the Rio Grande initiative to prevent illegal entry on state land between ports of entry.

Abbott also places the blame on Biden for any humanitarian crisis at the border. Responding to DOJ attorney accusations, he writes, “Mr. President, your finger points in the wrong direction. Neither of us wants to see another death in the Rio Grande River. Yet your open-border policies encourage migrants to risk their lives by crossing illegally through the water, instead of safely and legally at a port of entry. Nobody drowns on a bridge.

“If you truly care about human life, you must begin enforcing federal immigration laws,” he continued. “By doing so, you can help me stop migrants from wagering their lives in the waters of the Rio Grande River. You can also help me save Texans, and indeed all Americans, from deadly drugs like fentanyl, cartel violence, and the horrors of human trafficking.”

The letter came as over 175,000 foreign nationals were reported illegally entering the southern border alone in June, including at least 70,200 in Texas and as Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas continues to claim the border is secure.

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