Federal appeals court orders Texas to remove Greg Abbott’s floating border wall

A federal appeals court on Friday ruled that Texas must put aside one of its signature initiatives on the US-Mexico border: a 1,000-foot long barrier made of floating buoys tipped with sharp metal.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a lower federal court was correct in September when it found that the barriers overstepped federal law regarding navigable waters.

“It considered the threat to navigation and federal government operations on the Rio Grande, as well as the potential threat to human life the floating barrier created,” Judge Dana Douglas wrote in her opinion.

In a statement on X, Texas governor Greg Abbott, who pushed for the wall as part of his larger Operation Lonestar crackdown on immigration, called the ruling “clearly wrong,” vowing to seek a rehearing.

“We’ll go to SCOTUS if needed to protect Texas from Biden’s open borders,” he added.

The ruling means that Texas will have to cease work on the buoy wall and move it to the banks of the Rio Grande.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department sued Texas, arguing the controversial barrier was erected in violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act.

In September, a lower court agreed and noted there was no “credible evidence that the buoy barrier as installed has significantly curtailed illegal immigration.”

The wall, which has been condemned by border-state Democrats in Congress as “barbaric” for its saw-like metal barbs, has been linked to multiple potential deaths of migrants crossing the Rio Grande into the US.

The wall has also prompted controversy at the local level.

A kayak guide in Eagle Pass, Texas, named Jessie Fuentes, has also sued the state over the wall.

“I’m not a politician. I just say listen, I love that river. Nobody speaks up for it. I’m speaking up for the river. Man, I have the right to try to prosper from my love of the river, that allows me the opportunity to get out there, to bring people to the river,” he told The Independent earlier this year.

“They don’t live here. I do,” he added of Texas’s state leaders. “You’ve taken a beautiful waterway and you’ve converted it into a war zone.”

Human rights advocates have warned that military-style deterrence barriers along the border push migrants towards more remote areas, which are even more dangerous to cross.

“It’s been proven time after time that these so-called prevention through deterrence strategies don’t work,” Fernando García of the Border Network for Human Rights told The Independent earlier this year. “They have not stopped immigration flows, but what they have done is they have put immigrants at risk.”

“It’s very likely that with [the floating buoy wall] they are looking for more remote and isolated places to come across so that whenever they are in danger by heat exhaustion, by drowning, they will not have anybody to help them,” he added, saying he worries it could be a record year for migrant deaths in the Rio Grande.