Texas moves large floating barrier on US-Mexico border closer to American soil

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas has moved a floating barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border closer to American soil as the Biden administration and Mexico protest the wrecking ball-sized buoys that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott authorized in the name of preventing migrants from entering the country.

The repositioning comes ahead of a hearing Tuesday that could decide whether the buoys remain. Texas began installing the bright-orange buoys on the Rio Grande in July and the state was quickly sued by the Justice Department, which argues the barrier could impact relations with Mexico and pose humanitarian and environmental risks.

During a trip Monday to the border city of Eagle Pass, where the buoys are located, Abbott said the barrier was moved “out of an abundance of caution” following what he described as allegations that they had drifted to Mexico's side of the river.

“I don't know whether they were true or not,” Abbott said.

It is not clear when U.S. District Judge David Ezra of Austin might rule on the barrier.

In the meantime, Abbott's sprawling border mission known as Operation Lone Star continues to face numerous legal challenges, including a new one filed Monday by four migrant men who were arrested by Texas troopers after crossing the border.

The four men include a father and son and are among thousands of migrants who since 2021 have been arrested on state trespassing charges in Texas. Most have either had their cases dismissed or entered guilty pleas in exchange for time served. But the four men continued to remain in a Texas jail for two to six weeks after they should have been released, according to the lawsuit filed by the Texas ACLU and the Texas Fair Defense Project.

Instead of a Texas sheriff’s office allowing the jails to release the men, the lawsuit alleges, they were transported to federal immigration facilities where they were then sent to Mexico.

“I think a key point of all that, which is hard to grasp, is also that because they’re building the system as they go, the problems flare up in different ways,” said David Donatti, an attorney for the Texas ACLU.

Officials in both Kinney and Val Verde counties, which have partnered with Abbott's operation, are named in the lawsuit. A representative for Kinney County said Monday he did not believe anyone had yet reviewed the suit. A representative for Kinney County did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

The complaint also alleges that there were at least 80 others who were detained longer than allowed under state law from late September 2021 to January 2022.

Abbott was joined at the border on Monday by the Republican governors of Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska and South Dakota, all of whom have sent their own armed law enforcement and National Guard members to the border.

___ Gonzalez reported from McAllen, Texas.