Texas prepares to deploy buoys in the Rio Grande River as a deterrent to migrants

4-foot-high orange buoys will run along the middle of the river

SAN ANTONIO – Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday announced a plan to deploy a chain of 4-foot-high orange buoys that will run along the middle of the Rio Grande River in an effort to keep migrants from crossing into Texas.

“What we’re doing right now, we’re securing the border at the border, what these buoys will allow us to do is to prevent people from even getting to the border,” Abbott said.

The launch of the water barrier raised concerns from some nonprofit organizations like La Union Del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Some migrants have crossed oceans, jungles, desert, very dangerous terrain. They’re going to run into the buoys and decide not to try to cross them, just like we’ve seen with the border wall. People do try to cross and often times it does cost them. It comes at the expense of their life, and so, we’re worried primarily with that. How many migrants is this going to hurt,” said Dani Marrerohi, the nonprofit’s deputy director.

The mobile chain of buoys is expected to span 1,000 feet and will be launched in areas known to have high migrant traffic.

The first place where the floating barrier will be installed near the border community of Eagle Pass.

Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber said he is all for attempting new things that will help secure the border, but is not entirely confident the buoys will be an effective deterrent.

It’s not going to stop the immigrants is what I think. They’re still going to be looking for another place to go across,” Schmerber said.

Schmerber, a former federal officer, said he was surprised the state of Texas would take this action because the river is owned by the U.S. and Mexico.

“We have a treaty with Mexico, and I think anything that has to be done on the river I’m pretty sure (has to) be communicated with the country of Mexico,” Schmerber said.

The International Boundary and Water Commission said it was surprised to learn of the governor’s plan.

“This announcement by the governor caught us by surprise. Our door is always open to discussions with Texas, and we have recently shared information with them about our permitting process and federal law. We are studying what Texas is publicly proposing to determine whether and how this impacts our mission to carry out treaties between the US and Mexico regarding border delineation, flood control, and water distribution, which includes the Rio Grande,” IBWC said in a statement.

The floating barrier is set to launch in the Eagle Pass border sector in July and is expected to cost millions of dollars.

LUPE representatives say they could have a totally different border economy if that money was instead invested in their schools, roads, and parks and not spent in what they call militarizing the border.

About the Authors:

Jonathan Cotto is a reporter for KSAT’s Good Morning San Antonio. He’s a bilingual award-winning news reporter and he joined KSAT in 2021. Before coming to San Antonio, Cotto was reporting along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas. He’s a veteran of the United States Navy.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.