The floating border buoys that Texas installed in the middle of the Rio Grande to curb the flow of illegal immigrants may remain while the controversial measure makes its way through the courts, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.
The temporary stay issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit comes abruptly after a U.S. judge ordered the state a day prior to move the floating buoys to the embankment.
Buoys float on the Rio Grande River in Eagle Pass, Texas, July 20, 2023, as a Mexican engineer with the International Boundary and Water Commission uses GPS determine to see if the buoys are crossing into Mexican territory. (Omar Ornelas/ El Paso Times / USA TODAY NETWORK / File)
Although that order was not meant to take effect until Sept. 15, Thursday’s ruling could prevent Texas from having to take immediate steps to start moving the barriers.
Gov. Greg Abbott deployed the buoys in July to deter the flow of migrants coming across the southern border. The plan was part of the governor’s broader Operation Lone Star.
The buoy barrier was installed near the border town of Eagle Pass, with anchors in the riverbed. The area is part of a Border Patrol sector that has seen the second-highest number of migrant crossings this fiscal year with about 270,000 encounters.
Migrants rest near a buoy barrier on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas. (Omar Ornelas / El Paso Times / USA TODAY NETWORK / File)
The buoys brought legal challenges from the U.S. Justice Department, which accused Texas of putting a barrier on the international boundary without permission. The Biden administration also said the water barrier raised humanitarian and environmental concerns.