In the latest chapter of an expanding legal struggle over border security, a federal judge in Texas has issued a temporary restraining order, instructing federal Border Patrol agents to stop cutting concertina wire placed by the state along the Rio Grande in an attempt to deter migrants from crossing from Mexico. This order comes as part of a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who alleges that the federal agents are illegally damaging Texas property and allowing migrants into the country.
The court order temporarily prevents agents from cutting or moving the wire barriers strung in and around Eagle Pass, which have reportedly caused injuries to some migrants in recent months. Judge Alia Moses, appointed by President George W. Bush, argued that “deterring unlawful activity, including illegal entry, is in the public interest.” However, she did include an exception in the order, allowing federal agents to cut through the barriers when necessary to aid migrants in medical distress.
The judge acknowledged that the balance of interests leans slightly toward granting the injunction but emphasized that further litigation is required. Competing interests include private property rights of landowners who allowed the placement of concertina wire, the state’s right to help property owners protect their land from trespassers, and the federal government’s responsibilities concerning national security and border security. A hearing is scheduled for November 7 to determine whether the restraining order should be extended to a longer-term preliminary injunction.
This legal dispute is not the only one between Texas and the Biden administration regarding border security. The two entities are also engaged in a legal battle over the state’s placement of a 1,000-foot floating buoy barrier in the middle of the Rio Grande. In this case, a federal appeals court ruled last month that the barrier could remain in place while the argument proceeded.
Furthermore, Texas lawmakers are advancing legislation that would make it a state crime to enter the country without authorization and empower local police to arrest migrants across Texas. Such legislation could pose a significant challenge to federal supremacy over immigration policy.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott expressed his dissatisfaction with the situation on social media and stated that President Biden has created this crisis and has tried to block the state at every turn. Attorney General Paxton echoed the sentiment, urging the immediate closure of the border.
Not everyone supports the state’s use of concertina wire as a solution to the recent surge of migrants. Democratic State Senator Roland Gutierrez criticized the sharp fencing, stating that it does not address the issue effectively and instead endangers Border Patrol agents. He referred to it as a “political stunt” and questioned its efficacy.
In recent months, Texas has expanded its use of concertina wire along the riverbank as part of a more aggressive strategy to deter migrants from entering the state. Unfortunately, some migrants have suffered injuries due to the sharp wire. The Rio Grande’s swift currents have also resulted in numerous drownings.
According to Texas’ initial complaint, the state has spent approximately $11 million to purchase over 70,000 rolls of concertina wire. The majority of this wire has been deployed on private property, with the permission of landowners, by National Guard members as part of Governor Abbott’s border security program, known as Operation Lone Star.
Attorney General Paxton argued that the sharp fencing effectively deters illegal crossings and drug smuggling, particularly in the vicinity of the small city of Eagle Pass, which has experienced recent surges of migrants. The lawsuit claims that border agents have cut the wire at least 20 times during the first half of the year. In recent months, Texas has added even more concertina wire, while border agents have continued to cut or move it, as documented in the lawsuit. It alleges that the federal government has doubled down on its policy of destroying Texas’s wire fence.
The legal dispute over concertina wire is emblematic of the larger border security challenges facing Texas and the United States, underscoring the complex interplay between federal and state interests in addressing immigration and national security issues.