Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said his administration will deploy an “inflatable border” composed of floating barriers along the Rio Grande as part of its bid to deter migrants from attempting illegal crossings into the state.

The new policy was quickly slammed by some mocking the idea and others who said that Texas taxes could be better spent on other initiatives.

The barriers, seen in concept art presented at the state Capitol in Austin on Thursday as the governor signed six new border security bills into law, are effectively a string of interconnected buoys that spin when someone attempts to scale them, making them difficult to pass.

Below the waterline, a web of netting weighed down by anchors will prevent anyone from simply swimming underneath

The barriers will be placed along known hotspots for attempted crossings, with the first 1,000 feet to be situated near Eagle Pass, where Texas National Guardsman Bishop E Evans, 22, tragically drowned last year while attempting to rescue migrants from the river.

The governor’s office said in a statement that the strategy was intended to “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”.

Continuing to blame President Joe Biden for the perceived failure to secure the US-Mexico border, Governor Abbott said his latest package of bills is aimed at ensuring his state can “hold the line” against illegal immigrants, drugs and weapons entering the United States from the south.

They grant the Texas military the authority to use unmanned aircraft in search and recovery missions, authorise trained US Border Patrol agents to carry out arrest, search and seizure operations at checkpoints and compensate rural landowners whose property is damaged by illegal immigration-related activities.

They also designate Mexican drug cartels and criminal gangs as foreign terrorist organisations and increase the penalties for those caught destroying illegal drugs and those who operate stash houses.

Texas plans to deploy an inflatable barrier along the Rio Grande River to deter illegal immigrants

(Texas Department of Public Safety)

Speaking at Thursday’s signing, Governor Abbott said: “Thanks to the leadership and hard work of [Texas Department of Public Safety] Director [Steve] McCraw, General Thomas Suelzer and their teams, Texas has pushed back against the swell of migrants and held the line to keep people out of Texas – but there’s more that needs to be done.

“The Texas Legislature has stepped up to make sure we continue to robustly respond to President Biden’s growing border crisis, including allocating $5.1bn for border security.

“Today, I am signing six bills from this year’s regular session to ensure that Texas can continue to do even more to stop illegal immigration at our southern border and provide new tools to the brave men and women along the southern border to protect Texans and Americans from the chaos and crisis of the border.”

Regarding the barriers specifically, the governor said: “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.”

Director McCraw added: “We don’t want people to come across and continue to put their lives at risk when they come between the points of entry.”

He explained that the barriers are currently being tested by specialists and will be moveable so that they can be quickly relocated to new areas as needed.

Of their role as a deterrent, he said: “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.”

Rodolfo Rosales, director of the Texas chapter of the League of United Latin Americans Citizens, has condemned Mr Abbott’s latest approach to the situation as inhumane.

“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,” he told CBS.

“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.”

Social media users were quick to respond to Mr Abbott on Twitter.

“Texas will deploy new marine floating barriers to deter illegal border crossings between ports of entry. We continue to hold the line in Biden’s absence,” the governor tweeted on Friday.

“You know they can swim under it right?” one Twitter user said.

The director of the Central America and Mexico Policy Initiative at the Strauss Center at The University of Texas at Austin, Stephanie Leutert, wrote: “Some places of the Rio Grande will be shallow enough that this won’t be effective. And smugglers moving people across in rafts will quickly figure out how to cut these apart or hoist people over them from raft to raft. But… they will 100 percent cause more drowning deaths.”

“I bet they didn’t think about sharp objects that can penetrate said buoys or holding ones breath. Also this seems like a waste of money, time & labor,” one account holder added.

Several Twitter users compared the barrier to objects used in the NBC show American Ninja Warrior and Wipeout on TBS.

“Welcome to Wipeout: Illegal Immigration special!” one Twitter user said.

Gustaf Kilander contributed to this report

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