Federal judge orders US border authorities to cease cutting razor wire installed by Texas

Federal judge orders US border authorities to cease cutting razor wire installed by Texas

The order by U.S. Judge Alia Moses will remain in effect pending the outcome of a hearing next week in Del Rio.

John C. Moritz

Thao Nguyen
 USA TODAY NETWORKplayShow CaptionHide Caption#videoDetailsToggle{color:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));cursor:pointer;display:inline-block;font-family:var(–sans-serif,sans-serif);font-size:var(–type-7);font-weight:var( –font-weight-bold,900);line-height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);margin-bottom:-8px}#vdt_hide{margin-bottom:10px}.vdt-flex[hidden]{display:none}.vdt-svg{fill:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);width:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px)}Surge in asylum-seeking migrants overwhelming border patrol agentsAn influx in border crossings has become overwhelmingly frustrating for officials in Eagle Pass, Texas.Damien Henderson, Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — A federal judge on Monday ordered the Biden administration and Border Patrol agents to stop cutting through the razor wire installed by Texas to discourage unlawful immigration.

The temporary restraining order signed by U.S. District Judge Alia Moses of the Western District of Texas provides one exception that allows federal agents to cut the miles of wire in order to “provide or obtain emergency medical aid” for migrants. Some migrants, including children, have been wounded by the wire after crossing the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, Texas, when attempting to enter the state.

Moses ruled that the order will be in effect pending the outcome of a hearing on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s request last week that federal border authorities be barred from interfering with the state’s razor wire.

“The Court shall grant the temporary relief requested, with one important exception for any medical emergency that mostly likely results in serious bodily injury or death to a person, absent any boats or other life-saving apparatus available to avoid such medical emergencies prior to reaching the concertina wire barrier,” Moses wrote in the court filing.

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The state of Texas and the Biden administration have repeatedly clashed over illegal border crossings. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration has implemented several measures to block migrants from entering the state, including setting up the razor wire and placing large water buoys along the Rio Grande.

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Order in effect until November

In an 11-page document filed in federal court in Del Rio, Texas, Moses found that the state had met the required four-part test needed to be granted a temporary halt to the federal government’s action.

The order has limited exceptions, such as medical emergencies, and only mentioned ware installed in Eagle Pass. The order takes effect until Nov. 13 and a hearing in the case is set for next week.

“Another win for Texas & our historic border mission,” Abbott said on X, formerly known as Twitter, in response to the ruling.

Texas seeks to stop federal agents from cutting razor wire on border

Texas sued the Biden administration on Oct. 24, seeking to prohibit federal agents from cutting the state’s razor wire. In the lawsuit, Paxton accuses the federal government of “undermining” the Texas’ border security efforts.

In the state’s lawsuit and in the separate request for the temporary ruling, lawyers note that the wires are installed on private properties abutting the river that forms the Texas-Mexico border with the owners’ permission.

Two days after the state filed its lawsuit, a member of the Texas Military Department assigned to the Eagle Pass area took photos of Border Patrol agents cutting and moving coils of wire, according to court filings.

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According to the court filing, the state military department employee said an agent operating heavy equipment “inserted pallet forks into the concertina wire barrier, lifted the barrier high enough to pull the fencing stakes that kept the fence in place out of the ground, and held it suspended in the air for approximately 20 minutes.”

During that time migrants were able to pass through, the filing states.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a statement saying that border agents “have a responsibility under federal law” to protect migrants from being injured regardless of their legal status.

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Biden administration, Texas feud over border crossings

Abbott’s controversial measures to block migrants from crossing Texas’ border is part of a two-year effort, known as Operation Lone Star, in response to President Joe Biden’s border policies. The initiative has been condemned by the Biden administration along with some Democrats and immigrant advocacy groups.

Abbott has defended the initiative, blaming Biden for “not doing his job” at the border. In fiscal year 2023, more than 2 million apprehensions of migrants were recorded along the Mexican border, according to the latest Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics.

Over the past two years, Texas has placed a floating border barrier and coils of lacerating wire along the American shoreline without federal approval. The state has also bused thousands of migrants to Democrat-led cities across the United States.

Texas’ aggressive border tactics has raised numerous humanitarian and environmental concerns. The razor wire has lacerated not only adults but also young children. Over the summer, a child who was riding a migrant bus from Texas died in Illinois and a body was recovered near one of the buoys along the Rio Grande.

The state’s border enforcement measures are also the subject of at least two federal court actions, including the one regarding the razor wire. The Justice Department has sued the state seeking to force the removal of a floating chain of buoys on grounds that it is usurping the authority of the federal government.

Contributing: Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

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