The preliminary injunction hearing in the case filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against Gov. Abbott and the state of Texas for the removal of the 1,000-foot buoy barrier took place on Tuesday, August 22.

The DOJ alleged that the state of Texas, in violation of the Rivers and Harbors Act (RHA), built a structure obstructing the navigable capacity of the river and did not obtain authorization to do so. However, to be in violation under the RHA, the waters in question need to be navigable waters, meaning they are or could be used for commercial navigation between states and/or a foreign country—that’s when the federal government has jurisdiction.

As for any crime the government accuses a defendant of, the burden of demonstrating the evidence that the crime has been committed is on the government—here, the DOJ. However, the first DOJ witness, an employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, failed to convincingly address whether the part of the Rio Grande where the buoys were installed was actually and currently navigable.

The first witness, not an engineer, admitted that his determination of navigability was based on a list, which is itself based on reports and findings dating back from the ’70sand ’40s, respectively. Once navigable, always navigable seemed to be the argument the federal government was making. While such a conclusion may sound preposterous (are dried-up rivers navigable?), it would give the federal government overreaching power—and set a dangerous precedent.

The DOJ’s second witness, a U.S.-Mexico border coordinator for the State Department, was led by the DOJ’s examination to insist that the barrier was the cause of deteriorating diplomatic relations between Mexico and the U.S. The State Department employee listed the many diplomatic and public complaints that Mexico made stating that “this is a major concern for Mexico.” She added that, in turn, the concern of the State Department was that Mexico will not remain a partner on other issues. Against the everyday evidence that Texans face, the witness stated that the U.S. and Mexico were collaborating on security and migration management, among other areas. Another concern of the U.S. is that Mexico might not fulfill its water obligations toward Texas—and the barrier was impeding the U.S. efforts to have Mexico comply.

Let’s pause and look at this second argument more closely. The DOJ is insisting that a device—the buoy barrier—that the state of Texas had to place on the river to deter illegal entries into the state and country by migrants smuggled by Mexican cartels the Mexican government is known to collude with, be removed because, as the second witness put it, the Mexican government is sensitive about its sovereignty. So much for Texas’ sovereignty.

During his cross-examination of the State Department witness, the Texas Attorney General’s counsel asked questions related to the flow of illegal immigrants. He was interrupted by the Judge Ezra who insisted the navigability and obstruction of the river were the reasons for the lawsuit—and he would not tackle the question of Article I Section 10, or any political questions.

Judge Ezra requested the closing arguments be written and submitted by the end of Friday. He added he would make as prompt a decision as possible. Either way, the ruling is likely to be appealed.