Buoy, oh Buoy! Greg Abbott Wants a Border Wall in the Water. | Dallas Observer


Buoy, Oh Buoy! Greg Abbott Wants a Border Wall in the Water.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks about an illustration of new border security implementation during a news conference at the Texas State Capitol.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks about an illustration of new border security implementation during a news conference at the Texas State Capitol. Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Floating a Texas river is a timeless summer rite of passage. Situating yourself in the middle of an inner tube and meandering along the Comal or Guadalupe rivers, even when crowded, is pretty close to being in heaven as far as we’re concerned. We don’t know if Gov. Greg Abbott has ever experienced the sun-kissed bliss of floating the Frio, but on Thursday he announced plans that suggests he has a different idea of what "floating the river" means.

During a Capitol ceremony where the governor signed six bills addressing various aspects of border security — a favorite issue of his — Abbott unveiled plans for a new, unusual method for keeping people from crossing the Rio Grande into Texas.


In what read more like headlines from The Onion or McSweeney’s, many media outlets, understandably, couldn’t get the word out on Abbott’s new plan quickly enough. Catchy phrases including “deploy buoys,” “inflatable barrier,” and “buoy barrier” dotted headlines across the country from the Texas Tribune, CBS News and the New York Post.

The image of Abbott seated next to Maj. Gen.Thomas Suelzer, head of Texas Military Department, with large color renderings of a string of giant, orange globe-shaped buoys propped up on an easel next to them looked more like a shot of a bad Saturday Night Live sketch rehearsal than it did anything official. Also included the artwork, an image of a person struggling to get past the buoys. Not that any of this is terribly funny.

“This strategy will proactively prevent illegal crossings between ports of entry by making it more difficult to cross the Rio Grande and reach the Texas side of the southern border,” noted a press release summarizing Thursday’s signing ceremony and buoy announcement. “The first 1,000 feet of the marine floating barrier will be deployed near Eagle Pass.”

The Rio Grande, with its treacherous currents, has long been a deadly barrier to migrants attempting to ford or swim across it. Last September, nine people drowned after being swept away while attempt to cross the river near Eagle Pass. Drownings on the river are almost daily occurrences, Manuel Mello, the Eagle Pass fire chief, told The Guardian newspaper.

This latest, aquatic-themed attempt at a border solution comes after Abbott’s Operation Lone Star has racked up billions of dollars in spending, including more than $1 billion for a border wall that was less than two miles long in January of this year. In the months leading up to the 2022 elections, Abbott and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, both officials who had been in their positions for multiple terms, ran ads describing how dangerous the border had become, albeit under their respective watches.

During Thursday’s ceremony Abbott declared he was signing bills into law that will provide $5.1 billion more towards the state’s border security efforts. Bills allowing unmanned aircraft to be used by state military for observing the border (Senate Bill 423) and expanding the powers of the U.S. Border Patrol (Senate Bill 602) are set to become law.

And buoys, too.
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Kelly Dearmore is the News Editor for the Observer. His work has appeared in Texas Monthly, Success, Dallas Morning News and Cowboys & Indians, among other outlets. He lives in Carrollton with his wife, kids and angelic mother-in-law.

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