The United States Department of Justice accused Governor Greg Abbott of impeding federal Border Patrol agents in the course of their duties in a plea to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The filing was the latest move in the battle over razor wire barriers installed by the state government on the banks of the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass. Under directions from Abbott—who has spent $10 billion on anti-immigrant activities with poor results and dubious constitutionality—ordered 29 miles of wire erected in Maverick County earlier this year. Thousands of migrants have crossed there over the past several months.
Federal agents began cutting through the wire almost immediately, leading to a legal fight over state sovereignty and immigration policy. Abbott has repeatedly accused the federal government of destroying the fence in an effort to let more migrants in.
“They ignore policy changes & deny that the border is open b/c they truly want illegal immigration,” the governor tweeted on Tuesday. “TX will continue building barriers, denying illegal entry & busing migrants.”
The matter has gone back and forth in courts since last fall. A federal appeals court ruled on Dec. 19 that federal agents had to stop cutting the wire, reversing a lower court ruling. The matter will now head to the Supreme Court, hence the DOJ’s filing this week.
Contrary to Abbott’s claims that the Biden Administration simply wants to increase illegal immigration for unknown reasons, the DOJ filing makes it clear that the wire barriers are making the Border Patrol’s job harder, not easier.
“Like other law-enforcement officers, Border Patrol agents operating under difficult circumstances at the border must make context-dependent, sometimes split-second decisions about how to enforce federal immigration laws while maintaining public safety,” the filing says. “But the injunction prohibits agents from passing through or moving physical obstacles erected by the State that prevent access to the very border they are charged with patrolling and the individuals they are charged with apprehending and inspecting.”
There is already ample evidence that migrants can sometimes get through the barriers. This means that Border Patrol agents on the other side cannot follow them to detain or arrest them. The current law only allows agents to cut wire in case of emergencies.
Even that is not a cure for the problems the barriers represent. Experts have repeatedly said that Abbott’s liberal deployment of razor wire is dangerous, especially around the river. At least two bodies have been found floating in the Rio Grande, enmeshed in the wire.
“While Texas and the court of appeals believed a narrow exception permitting agents to cut the wire in case of extant medical emergencies would leave federal agents free to address life-threatening conditions, they ignored the uncontested evidence that it can take 10 to 30 minutes to cut through Texas’s dense layers of razor wire; by the time a medical emergency is apparent, it may be too late to render life-saving aid,” the filing says.