The Justice Department is seeking a preliminary injunction in its case against Texas over its use of floating barriers in the Rio Grande, according to a Wednesday court filing, in an attempt to put the case on a fast track.
“The basic facts are clear, and no further inquiry is needed for this Court to grant the United States immediate injunctive relief in this enforcement action,” the Justice Department said in its filing.
The department is asking the US District Court for the Western District of Texas to block the construction of any new floating barriers and to force the state to remove existing barriers within 10 days of the requested order.
Earlier this week, the Justice Department sued Texas over the floating barriers, which were installed by the state as part of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s border operation, arguing that they did so without authorization.
That suit, and the newly filed motion, argue Abbott and the state of Texas are violating the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act by building a structure in US water without permission from the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The RHA “prohibits creation of any obstruction not affirmatively authorized by Congress, to the navigable capacity of any of the waters of the United States.”
For the preliminary injunction to be granted, US attorneys must convincingly argue to the court that their lawsuit is likely to succeed on its merits. In the motion, which includes several images of the barriers in the river, attorneys claim the barriers interfere “with the federal government’s ability to carry out its operations on the Rio Grande” – including rescue missions run by Border Patrol and the Coast Guard.
What’s more, they add in the filing, the barriers have “already substantially harmed the United States’ foreign relations with Mexico.”
During a news conference Wednesday, Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Alicia Bárcena Ibarra said her country had sent its second diplomatic note to the US complaining about the barriers.
The floating barriers not only violate two treaties between the US and Mexico, she said, but a slide that accompanied her remarks claimed that a portion of the 305 meters of deployed buoy is on “Mexican territory.”
Bárcena Ibarra called the deployment of the buoys a “unilateral action” made by “one state in the United States.”
CNN has reached out to Abbott’s office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Office of the Texas Attorney General for comment regarding the buoys being deployed on Mexican territory.
Ahead of the Justice Department filing suit Monday, Abbott said that he would not order the floating barriers be removed from the Rio Grande, in defiance of a request from the department.
“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 state is also facing another lawsuit over the barriers, brought earlier this month by the owner of a Texas canoe and kayaking company operating on the Rio Grande.
The standoff over the Rio Grande comes as the Justice Department continues to assess what it calls “troubling reports” of the mistreatment of migrants while Biden administration officials have grown increasingly concerned in recent months about Abbott’s measures, which have disrupted US Border Patrol operations in the region.
This story has been updated with additional information.