Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday announced a new strategy to deter illegal immigrants from crossing the southern border involving the deployment of a water-based barrier in the Rio Grande.
During a press conference, Abbott shared his plans to deploy a floating barrier that stretches 1,000 feet in length. He described it as a man-made wall floating in the water, intended to be an extra layer to hinder immigrants from swimming or wading across the Rio Grande.
Abbott explained that the deployment of these buoys, strategically positioned in the middle of the river, will prevent people from even reaching the border. The barriers, depicted in a mock-up as orange balls measuring four feet in diameter, will serve as obstacles to deter unlawful entry into the country.
“This is a new water-based barrier—buoys … We can put mile after mile after mile of these buoys,” Abbott said during a press conference.
“We’re securing the border—at the border,” he added. “What these buoys will allow us to do is to prevent people from even getting to the border.”
These structures will be strategically positioned in the middle of the Rio Grande. They are designed to make it difficult to climb over or swim under.
Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) chief Steve McCraw explained at the same press conference that the barriers will present additional challenges for immigrants making their journey through the water as they attempt to unlawfully enter the country.
“Nobody needs to come between the ports of entry,” Craw said, stressing that it was dangerous. “Family units that come across the river between the ports of entry are risking themselves and their family members. They’re putting themselves in harm’s way.”
On June 8, DPS spokesman Chris Olivarez shared video footage of a 6-year-old boy who U.S. authorities helped after he became unresponsive while crossing the Rio Grande with his family, having suffered from heat exhaustion.
“The DANGERS in crossing the Rio Grande River as the summer months heat up. [Texas DPS] Troopers encountered a family who had just crossed the Rio Grande River into Eagle Pass,” Olivarez wrote. “A 6-year-old child suffered heat exhaustion & became unresponsive. Troopers quickly provided life-saving medical aid.”
McCraw added that Mexican cartels, who he described as public enemy number one, are the only beneficiaries of human smuggling operations. The buoy system, he said, is intended to dissuade families from embarking on the dangerous river crossing.
“It’s very difficult to be able to go through these,” McCraw told reporters. “Very difficult to come over.”
The Center for Immigration Studies said that the water barrier comes with some political risk, as it will likely draw criticism from hostile media should anyone die attempting to overcome the barrier.
State officials have reportedly said the barrier is designed as a deterrence for the masses, not necessarily the few who might try to get past it, the organization reported.
The initial phase of deploying the barriers will begin immediately near Eagle Pass, which McCraw identified as a major hub for smuggling activities.
The estimated cost for this phase is approximately $1 million, funded entirely by the state. Further installations are planned as part of a comprehensive border security campaign addressing illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
The measures are in addition to $5.1 billion in the new state budget that’s on Abbott’s desk and a bill before lawmakers in their special session that would authorize a prison sentence of at least 10 years for smugglers of immigrants.
In addition to the barriers, Abbott signed six bills related to border security. These measures include designating Mexican cartels as terrorist organizations, allocating funding for law enforcement training, expanding the use of National Guard surveillance drones, and granting increased powers to Border Patrol agents under Texas law.
The state has furthermore allocated substantial financial aid to assist landowners affected by property damage caused by drug smugglers and human traffickers.
Abbott contends that the presence of more troopers and guardsmen along the border has saved lives, citing significant seizures of fentanyl that, if distributed, could potentially endanger the entire United States population.
Abbott has repeatedly criticized the Biden administration for its perceived lack of action in securing the U.S.–Mexico border. He argues that the federal government has not fulfilled its responsibility, leading Texas to adopt a proactive approach to address illegal immigration and combat drug cartels.