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Texas Gov. Abbott announces buoy barrier in Rio Grande to combat border crossings

Texas is set to deploy a buoy barrier in the Rio Grande as part of plans to deter migrant crossings, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday.

He shared the news after he signed six bills related to border security. Funding will come from $5.1 billion approved by the state legislature to secure the border. 

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

The first 1,000 feet of buoys will be deployed at Eagle Pass, which Steve McCraw, director of the state's Department of Public Safety, called "the center of gravity for smuggling." The first deployment will cost under $1 million and will begin "pretty much immediately." Officials did not share a more specific number for the cost of the barrier.

Texas Governor Abbott Holds Border Security Bill Signing At Texas Capitol
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw points to an illustration of new border security implementation during a news conference on June 8, 2023, at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas.  Brandon Bell / Getty Images

A Texas National Guard member drowned last year in Eagle Pass while attempting to rescue migrants in the river.

"We don't want people to come across and continue to put their lives at risk when they come between the points of entry," McCraw said. 

The buoys have been tested by special operators, tactical operators and specialists with Border Patrol, McCraw said. It can be quickly deployed and can be moved as needed.

Officials hope the buoys will act as a deterrent to prevent migrants from entering the water. While there are ways to overcome the buoys, which can range in size, it will take a lot of effort and specialized skills. 

"You could sit there for a couple of days and hold onto it, but eventually you're going to get tired and want to go back. You'll get hungry," McCraw said. 

There will also be webbing going down into the water and anchors to the bottom so people cannot swim underneath. 

The Texas chapter of the League of United Latin Americans Citizens condemned Abbott's plan. State Director Rodolfo Rosales denounced it as an inhumane, barbaric and ill-conceived plan. Rosales said the organization stands against any measure that could lead to a loss of migrant life, but did not specify what dangers the organization felt the buoy barrier could pose.

"We view it as a chilling reminder of the extreme measures used throughout history by elected leaders against those they do not regard as human beings, seeking only to exterminate them, regardless of the means employed. It is with profound horror and shame that we bear witness to the consideration of these measures, which are evidently intended as political theatre but will undoubtedly result in the loss of innocent lives among the refugees seeking asylum in the United States.

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