Biden administration demands that the Texas attorney general give Border Patrol access to a park taken over by Texas

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this month blocked federal agents from Shelby Park, a city park on the Rio Grande riverfront in Eagle Pass.

National Guard soldiers stand guard on the banks of the Rio Grande at Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Jan. 12.Brandon Bell / Getty Images file

The Biden administration has demanded that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton give federal border agents full access to a riverfront park in the border town of Eagle Pass, where state law enforcement officers have been arresting migrants who cross into the U.S., according to a copy of a letter obtained by NBC News. 

In the letter, sent Tuesday, the chief lawyer for the Department of Homeland Security asked Paxton to clarify which parts of 47-acre Shelby Park remain accessible or inaccessible to the Border Patrol by Friday.

“The State alleged that Shelby Park is open to the public, but we do not believe this statement is accurate,” said the letter from DHS general counsel Jonathan Meyer. “To our knowledge, Texas has only permitted access to Shelby Park by allowing public entry for a memorial, the media, and the use of the golf course adjacent to Shelby Park, all while continuing to restrict U.S. Border Patrol’s access to the park. Please clarify the scope of access Texas permits to the public.”

Razor wire on the banks of the Rio Grande at Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Jan. 12.Brandon Bell / Getty Images file

On Monday, the Supreme Court delivered a win for the Biden administration in one of its many legal disputes with the state of Texas over immigration, ruling that the Border Patrol be allowed to cut and remove razor wire put in place by Texas along the Rio Grande in Shelby Park and elsewhere to restrict migrants from crossing the river into the U.S.

Meyer referred to the decision and said DHS now also demands access to Shelby Park. Texas blocked federal agents from the park earlier this month when Gov. Greg Abbott declared an emergency. The Texas Military Department, the state agency that oversees the Texas National Guard, took control of the park and then gave access to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state law enforcement agency.

The Texas Military Department in a statement said that it continues to hold the line in Shelby Park to deter and prevent unlawful entry into the state of Texas.

According to a post on X from a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, some state officers began arresting migrants for trespassing in Shelby Park last week. 

In a previous letter from Texas to the Biden administration, Paxton claimed Texas was blocking Border Patrol agents from access to the park because they were not enforcing U.S. immigration law when they let migrants cross the border in that area. 

DHS has blamed the state’s barring of Border Patrol’s access to the park for the drowning deaths of a mother and two children, when Border Patrol surveillance was unable to spot the three migrants in distress because Texas removed their equipment.

The Biden administration has threatened to sue Texas over access to Shelby Park but so far has not formally filed a lawsuit in court. 

Among specific demands made by DHS in the letter sent Tuesday is “unrestricted access to the entire Shelby Park area during emergency circumstances, including but not limited to, assistance to other agents and officers, as well as medical and rescue operations.”

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter. The Texas Department of Public Safety referred questions to the Texas Military Department.