(CNN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will not be ordering floating barriers to be removed from the Rio Grande, in defiance of the US Department of Justice.
“Texas will fully utilize its constitutional authority to deal with the crisis you have caused,” Abbott wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden following last week’s DOJ request to remove the barriers.
He added, “Texas will see you in court, Mr. President.”
The showdown between Abbott and the federal government comes as Texas’ treatment of migrants who attempt to cross into the US illegally faces increased scrutiny. Biden administration officials have grown increasingly concerned in recent months about Abbott’s measures, which have disrupted US Border Patrol operations in the region and put migrants at risk. A Homeland Security official told CNN last week that Abbott’s moves are “making our job harder” while disturbing images of migrants with injuries and troubling reports of Texas troops pushing migrants back to Mexico have drawn criticism from the White House and scores of Democratic lawmakers.
The Justice Department told Texas on Thursday that it intends to file legal action against the placement of the floating barriers in the Rio Grande as part of the state’s operation along the Texas-Mexico border, according to sources familiar and a letter obtained by CNN. The Justice Department gave Texas a deadline of Monday at 2 p.m. ET to commit to the removal of the floating border barriers or face legal action, according to the letter sent to Abbott.
The Republican governor pushed back on those demands, saying, “I have asserted Texas’s ‘sovereign interest in protecting [her] borders. 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.”
The White House responded to Abbott’s decision by slamming his actions as “dangerous and unlawful.”
“Governor Abbott’s dangerous and unlawful actions are undermining that effective plan and making it hard for the men and women of Border Patrol to do their jobs of securing the border. The governor’s actions are cruel and putting both migrants and border agents in danger,” White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan said.
He added: “If Governor Abbott truly wanted to drive toward real solutions, he’d be asking his Republican colleagues in Congress, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, why they voted against President Biden’s request for record funding for the Department of Homeland Security and why they’re blocking comprehensive immigration reform and border security measures to finally fix our broken immigration system.”
The Justice Department’s threat of legal action over the floating barriers is based on a clause in federal law that “prohibits the creation of any obstruction to the navigable capacity of waters of the United States, and further prohibits building any structure in such waters without authorization from the United States Army Corps of Engineers.”
Texas is already facing a lawsuit against its installation of a marine floating barrier. The owner of a Texas canoe and kayaking company filed the lawsuit earlier this month on the same day that Texas started deploying buoys for the barrier. That suit lists the state of Texas and Abbott, as well as the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard.
The inspector general for the Texas Department of Public Safety has received several additional complaints from DPS personnel on the front lines at the border about the treatment of migrants trying to enter the United States, three sources familiar with the investigation told CNN. Among the complaints are reports that Texas troopers were told to push back migrants into the Rio Grande and ordered not to give them water.
Abbott’s office has denied that any orders have been given that “would compromise the lives of those attempting to cross the border illegally.”
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