Deaths linked to Texas-Mexico floating border barrier

Mexican authorities confirmed Aug. 3 that they recovered two bodies from the Rio Grande near the border town of Piedras Negras, Coahuila state. Authorities recovered one of the bodies, a Mexican national, from buoys recently floated by Texas in an effort to impede border crossings from Mexico. The second body, that of a Honduran national, was recovered further upstream, away from the buoys. The incidents have renewed attention on the floating barrier, which is now the subject of a lawsuit between the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the state of Texas.

In response to the recovery of the two bodies, Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador called the buoys "inhumane." Mexican authorities maintain that Texas' installation of the buoys violates Mexico's sovereignty. They cite two treaties, the Water Treaty of 1944 and the Boundary Treaty of 1970, which govern the waters that separate Mexico and the US. Any interference with the flow of these waters potentially violates the treaties.

Mexican authorities also continue to claim that the buoys threaten the human rights and safety of migrants passing through the Rio Grande—a claim echoed by Human Rights Watch.

In a statement to the press, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Steve McCraw dismissed concerns that the deaths were related to the buoys. McCraw said, "[P]reliminary information suggests [the second discovered body] drowned upstream from the marine barrier and floated into the buoys." A spokesperson for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott doubled down on McCraw's statement, saying that the Mexican government is "flat-out wrong."

The buoys are currently the subject of a lawsuit between the DoJ and the state of Texas. The DoJ alleges that Texas violated the Rivers and Harbors Act by failing to obtain federal authorization for the buoys prior to their installation. Like Mexico and HRW, the DoJ also voiced human rights and public safety concerns over the buoys. In response to the lawsuit, Abbott indicated the buoys would remain in place, writing: "Mr. President, Texas will see you in court."

From Jurist, Aug. 4. Used with permission.

See our last report on the struggle in Texas.

Judge orders Texas to remove floating barriers from Rio Grande

A federal district judge issued a preliminary injunction on Sept. 6 ordering Texas to move its floating barrier from the Rio Grande's main waters to the riverbank. US Senior District Judge David Alan Ezra granted the US Justice Department's request for the preliminary injunction pending a final judgment in the dispute between Texas and the federal government. (Jurist)