Mexico files diplomatic complaint over Gov. Greg Abbott’s floating border barriers

An unfinished strand of orange buoys, meant to deter migrants from crossing the river, sits in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass on July 11, 2023. (Reuters/Kaylee Greenlee Beal, Reuters/Kaylee Greenlee Beal)

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Mexico’s incoming secretary of foreign affairs, Alicia Bárcena, said Friday that Texas’ deployment of buoys on the Texas-Mexico border to prevent migrants from crossing the Rio Grande are a violation of water treaties between the U.S. and Mexico.

Bárcena told reporters that the Mexican government sent a diplomatic letter to the U.S. on June 26 stating the barriers are in violation of a 1944 water treaty, Reuters reported. The Associated Press reported Friday that Bárcena plans to send an inspection team to the Rio Grande to see if the barrier extends into Mexico's side of the border and if it impedes the flow of water, which would violate the treaty.

Texas has been installing the buoys over the past week, along with razor wire on the Rio Grande river near Eagle Pass.

Those measures are the latest in Gov. Greg Abbott’s aggressive border security initiative Operation Lone Star, which launched in March 2021. Abbott has also deployed the Texas National Guard, built new sections of border wall and bused more than 20,000 migrants from Texas to big cities led by Democrats.

Abbott’s office didn’t immediately respond to an email from The Texas Tribune seeking comment on the diplomatic complaint. But in previous statements he has touted the buoys as an effective way of preventing illegal border crossings.

“We’re securing the border at the border,” he said in June when he announced the approach. “What these buoys will allow us to do is prevent people from getting to the border.”

The new barriers haven’t just ruffled diplomatic feathers. Jessie Fuentes, owner of Epi’s Canoe & Kayak Team, an Eagle Pass-based kayak rental business, filed a lawsuit against Abbott and the Texas Department of Public Safety. The lawsuit alleges the installation of a buoy system had harmed his business and that Abbott did not have the authority to regulate cross-border traffic.

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