Sunday 9 July 2023

Texas begins deploying floating buoy barriers in Rio Grande; kayaking outfitter sues

 Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is facing a lawsuit over the installation of a floating barrier in the Rio Grande, the Houston Chronicle reported Friday.

"The buoys have arrived and the installation of the marine barrier on the Rio Grande begins today. #OperationLoneStar," the Texas Department of Public Safety tweeted Friday afternoon. 

Gov. Abbott shared a 15-second video of the large, orange buoys being offloaded from flatbed trailers Friday. Texas DPS is overseeing the marine barrier installation in Eagle Pass, Gov. Abbott said in a tweet, adding there is "more to come."

Gov. Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March 2021 to respond to skyrocketing levels of illegal immigration.

Eagle Pass resident Jessie F. Fuentes filed a lawsuit within hours of the buoys' arrival, the Houston Chronicle reported. Fuentes owns a business that provides boat rentals and guided river tours. His lawsuit alleges that Abbott lacks the legal authority to launch the operation meant to deter illegal migrants from ever entering the water. 

"[The business owned by Fuentes] will be unable to conduct tours and canoe and kayak sessions in Eagle Pass because of the installation of the buoys," the lawsuit says.

"The Governor proclaims to support law and order, yet he initiated Operation Lone Star without legal authority and seeks to install buoys to score political points without a legitimate public policy objective," Laredo attorney Carlos E. Flores, who represents Fuentes, told the outlet. 

Gov. Abbott announced his plan to deploy the floating barriers June 8, as TheBlaze reported. The marine deterrent is one part of a much larger package package of border legislation.

"Today, public enemy number one is the Mexican cartels, and they impact every community in Texas and the United States," Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw said during the June press conference.

"Our mission is to detect and interdict transitional criminal activity and create proactive strategies to combat it. It's dangerous to cross between ports of entry, and securing the border between them is ideal to fight Mexican cartels."

At least four migrants drown in the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass this month, including an infant, WLS-TV reported Tuesday.

Last Saturday, Texas DPS's Tactical Marine Unit deployed two airboats to recover multiple bodies seen floating in the river.

Immigration advocates claim the buoys will lead to more drownings. DPS officials say the barriers will deter would-be illegal migrants from undertaking the treacherous crossing at all.

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