WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is not alone in criticizing the buoy barrier that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration placed in the Rio Grande to block migrant crossings there. The government of Mexico wants the buoys removed, too.
“Our demand is that these buoys be removed,” said Mexican Foreign Secretary Alicia Bárcena at a recent joint press conference with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We have already issued two diplomatic notes that have been received by the federal government. This is an action on the part of a state government that obviously is causing problems,” she continued.
The arguments against the buoys by the U.S. federal government and Mexico were bolstered by a topographic survey by the International Boundary and Water Commission, which found that 787 feet of the buoys, almost 80%, are floating on Mexico’s side of the water border. The rest, just over 200 feet, are on the U.S. side.
Experts said the finding gives Mexico legal ammunition to remove the buoys, but that its government has decided not to.
“Mexico knows that to do so would seem politically inflammatory. Why do it that way? It’s better to let the U.S. government go through its process and win its court case, get its injunction, and proceed to remove the buoys,” Stephen Mumme, professor of political science at Colorado State University, told Spectrum News. “Because at that point, the law and the conditions are very plain, very evident, very clear.”
The U.S. has decided to let the legal process play out, too. A federal judge in Austin will hear arguments Tuesday in the Biden administration’s challenge to Abbott’s buoy barrier.
“We’re a country and a government that proceeds by rule of law and, in this case, the Department of Justice has gone to court to sue, seeking two things. One, the removal of the buoys, two, an injunction against any further construction of buoys,” Blinken said.
Abbott stands by his hardline approach, arguing that Texas may tighten the border if the Biden administration will not.
“We are fully authorized by the Constitution of the United States of America to do exactly what we are doing and that is to secure the border,” Abbott said in a press conference Monday in Eagle Pass.
Mumme, an expert on water management along the U.S.-Mexico border, said there are potential Texas actions that will damage U.S.-Mexico relations going forward.
“What they don’t see are all the hard work, all the effort, all the agreements and all the interaction between Mexico and the United States that has been ongoing, accumulated over many years. That creates a very workable institutional structure,” Mumme said.
“We have a very close relationship with Mexico. It’s one of the closest relationships we have with any country, and we’ve got to keep that going. We have to sustain that,” he continued.
Ahead of Tuesday’s hearing in the U.S. District Court, officials with the International Boundary and Water Commission say they saw workers moving the buoys closer to the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. In court filings, the administration said Texas had no right to put the buoy boundary anywhere in the river, and that doing so was damaging U.S.-Mexico relations.