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DOJ threatens Abbott with lawsuit over floating barriers in Rio Grande

The Biden administration on Friday gave Texas a three-day deadline to enter in negotiations to remove its floating barriers in the Rio Grande or face legal action.

In a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and interim state Attorney General Angela Colmenero (R), the Department of Justice (DOJ) said that the buoys installed to deter migrants from crossing the river violate a number of federal laws.

“The State of Texas’s actions violate federal law, raise humanitarian concerns, present serious risks to public safety and the environment, and may interfere with the federal government’s ability to carry out its official duties,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim and United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas Jaime Esparza in a letter obtained by The Hill.

According to the federal attorneys, the installation of buoys violated multiple provisions of the Rivers and Harbors act.

According to that law, they wrote, it is forbidden to create a construction that obstructs navigable waters in the United States, and any construction in such waters requires the permission of the Army Corps of Engineers, which Texas did not obtain.

“Texas’s unauthorized construction of the floating barrier is a prima facie violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act. This floating barrier poses a risk to navigation, as well as public safety, in the Rio Grande River, and it presents humanitarian concerns,” wrote Kim and Esparza.

“Thus, we intend to seek appropriate legal remedies, which may include seeking injunctive relief requiring the removal of obstructions or other structures in the Rio Grande River.”

The threat to sue is the latest escalation in a growing constitutional rift between GOP-governed states that seek to implement their vision on immigration policy and the federal government, which claims full constitutional jurisdiction over borders and immigration.

Abbott presented a different interpretation of the Constitution.

“Texas has the sovereign authority to defend our border, under the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution,” he wrote on Twitter.

“We have sent the Biden Administration numerous letters detailing our authority, including the one I hand-delivered to President Biden earlier this year.”

Abbott’s view and the consequences of the border barriers installed as a part of Operation Lone Star — including the buoys — have many Democrats calling on the Biden administration to push Texas officials aside at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a letter to Biden Friday, 86 House Democrats urged the president to “to assert your authority over federal immigration policy and foreign relations and investigate and pursue legal action, as appropriate, related to stop Governor Abbott’s dangerous and cruel actions.”

Rage against Abbott has blown over after a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper’s concerns about the humanity of Operation Lone Star were made public last week.

In an internal email detailing a string of preventable deaths and injuries related mainly to razor wire and buoys installed by Texas on the Rio Grande, the trooper asked his superiors to take a different tack, questioning orders to deny water to migrants and to “push the people back into the water to go to Mexico.”

“I truly believe in the mission of Operation Lone Star; I believe we a have stepped over a line into the in humane. We need to operate it correctly in the eyes of God. We need to recognize that these are people who are made in the image of God and need to be treated as such,” wrote the trooper in the email dated July 3.

Calls to stop Operation Lone Star have intensified since then; Rep. Julián Castro (D-Texas), who led the Friday letter, on Tuesday led a call by House Democrats from Texas censuring Abbott’s border operations.

Individual members have also made their thoughts on Operation Lone Star public; Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) on Thursday called the email’s allegations “disturbing.”

“Governor Abbott’s shameless alleged actions are inexcusable, and there must be a full and transparent investigation into the possible crimes that he ordered to prevent further violence and mistreatment of children, asylum seekers, and migrants,” Barragán said.

Source: The Hill

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