A federal judge in Texas ordered the U.S. government on Tuesday to move two floating barriers blocking part of the Rio Grande, which is the natural border between the United States and Mexico. U.S. District Judge Randy Crane granted a temporary restraining order that effectively stops the Department of Homeland Security from keeping the barriers in place.
The restraining order was granted in response to a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas and several municipalities and counties that claimed the barriers caused economic and environmental harm due to clogged irrigation canals and blocked off access to the river. The government argued that the barriers were necessary to prevent illegal crossings.
However, Judge Crane said that the use of the barriers violated the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as the sediment it caused by blocking off the river could harm the endangered plants and animals that live in the Rio Grande. The judge also noted that the government did not seek any of the required permits before erecting the barriers and did not properly consider the consequences of their action.
The ruling could have wide-reaching implications for U.S. immigration policy, as the government has been relying on similar barriers to deter illegal crossings on the southern border in recent months. However, it remains to be seen if the ruling will be enforced or if the government will make a formal appeal.