Texas clashes with Supreme Court over border control

Abbott claims he has the right to protect Texas and defy the federal government.
Texas and the federal government have entered a standoff over border control. The number of undocumented people entering the United States from the Mexico-United States border has been increasing, with recent months setting record numbers. According to United States Customs and Border Protection, December 2023 had 371,036 recorded encounters with noncitizens, the highest it has ever reached in one month, beating a previous amount recorded of 341,392 in September 2023. The majority of these encounters have occurred at the Mexico-United States border. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made border control a central element of his platform. In 2021, he launched Operation Lone Star, which greatly increased the resources and manpower dedicated to securing the border. Operation Lone Star and the handling of the border have been criticized many times, but in recent weeks, Texas has entered into a new stage of conflict with the federal government over border policy.
A central tenet of the issue lies with Texas’s usage of a barrier of concertina wire, a form of razor wire, to secure the Rio Grande River which separates Texas and Mexico. Texas has been under fire for years for constructing the barrier. Critics call it dangerous and inhumane since people caught in the wire risk drowning. Multiple people have died in attempted crossings. Texas maintains that the barriers are important to protect the state and nation from undocumented immigration. In October 2023, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the federal government for agents of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection cutting portions of concertina wire and damaging the barrier. CBP held the stance that their agents had the authority to cut the wire if necessary to perform their duty of apprehending undocumented people and ensure the health and safety of anyone who attempts to cross.
The latest chapter of the issue, which has inspired the tense conflict between Texas and Washington D.C., is centered on Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas. Eagle Pass is on the Rio Grande and has had a high volume of illegal border crossing activity, leading Abbot to send in Texas state troopers and National Guard members to secure the park on Jan. 10. They closed down the area and blocked it off from federal Border Patrol agents.
On Jan. 12, after the Texas National Guard took control of Shelby Park, three migrants — a mother and two children — drowned in the river after being caught in the wire. U.S. Border Patrol was unable to take any steps to intervene due to the Texas National Guard removing them and barring them from the park. While the CBP and Department of Homeland Security claim that they were blocked from responding to a distress call to rescue the people in danger, the Texas Military Department claims that the victims had already drowned by the time Border Patrol attempted to access the site, and the situation was already handled.
The standoff at the park has led the federal government to take steps to assert authority over border control matters, which they historically had control over. While the 5th U.S. Circuit Court had previously declared that CBP did not have the authority to cut Texas’s concertina wire, on Jan. 22 the U.S. Supreme Court overruled that decision in a close 5-4 vote. This restored Border Patrol’s ability to remove the razor wire and reaffirmed that the federal government held authority over the border. The day after, the Department of Homeland Security issued an ultimatum to Texas to restore Border Patrol’s access to the border.
Abbott has refused to submit to the Supreme Court’s decision and Homeland Security’s orders. He claims that the illegal immigration crisis constitutes an invasion that the federal government has failed to protect Texas from, so he claims he has the right to defy the federal government in order to protect the state.
This standoff and legal battle is relevant for more than just Texas and the Mexico-United States border; it has wide reaching effects for the U.S. political climate. Border control remains a major political issue, and this situation has brought more attention to it. Twenty-five Republican governors have declared support for Texas on the issue, some even sending their own National Guard to Texas to support them. How the federal government under the Biden administration responds to the issue will likely affect presidential campaigns for the upcoming 2024 election. Many Democrats have called for the White House to take a firm stance and declare a state of emergency, which would take control of the National Guard away from state governors and give it to Biden as Commander-in-Chief. Historically, this has been the presidential response to states attempting to oppose the federal government, such as when Dwight D. Eisenhower had to take control of the Arkansas National Guard since the governor was using them to prevent the desegregation of schools.
It is unknown how this stalemate will resolve. Both parties are holding firm, and more drastic action from either side could come at any moment.

Post Author: Isaac McGill