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Supreme Court allows Border Patrol agents to remove razor wire Texas installed at Mexico border

The court weighed in on a dispute between the Biden administration and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who installed the wire in an effort to prevent illegal border crossings.
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WASHINGTON — A closely divided Supreme Court on Monday allowed Border Patrol agents to cut through or move razor wire Texas installed on the U.S.-Mexico border as part of the state’s effort to prevent illegal border crossings.

The court on a 5-4 vote granted an emergency request filed by the Biden administration, which had argued that Texas was preventing agents from carrying out their duties.

The brief order noted that four conservative members of the nine-justice court would have rejected the government's request. They were Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

The Biden administration says the wire prevents agents from reaching migrants who have already crossed over the border into the U.S.

Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott, a Republican, installed the razor wire near the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass as part of an operation to address illegal immigration that has brought the state into conflict with the Biden administration.

A White House spokesperson on Monday said: "Texas’ political stunts, like placing razor wire near the border, simply make it harder and more dangerous for frontline personnel to do their jobs. Ultimately, we need adequate resources and policy changes to address our broken immigration system."

Texas sued after Border Patrol agents cut through some of the razor wire, claiming the agents had trespassed and damaged state property.

A federal judge ruled for the Biden administration, but the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month reversed that decision, saying agents could not cut or move the wire unless there was a medical emergency.

Abbott’s immigration enforcement plan, called Operation Lone Star, includes busing thousands of migrants to Democratic-led cities and arresting migrants on trespassing charges. The state previously placed buoys in the Rio Grande to prevent crossings, prompting the Biden administration to sue. The barrier remains in place while litigation continues.

Even while the Biden administration's application was pending at the Supreme Court, the standoff intensified.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton rebuffed a Biden administration request that the state back off its takeover of a public park at Eagle Pass. That followed an incident in which three people drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande. The Department of Homeland Security said Border Patrol agents were "physically barred" from entering the area in responding to the incident.

"It is impossible to say what might have happened if Border Patrol had had its former access to the area — including through its surveillance trucks that assisted in monitoring the area," Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said in a court filing on behalf of the Biden administration.

The Department of Homeland Security welcomed the high court’s order.

“Enforcement of immigration law is a federal responsibility,” a DHS spokesperson said in a statement. “Rather than helping to reduce irregular migration, the State of Texas has only made it harder for frontline personnel to do their jobs and to apply consequences under the law.”

Paxton, in a statement posted to X, said that the Supreme Court's order "allows Biden to continue his illegal effort to aid the foreign invasion of America."

"The destruction of Texas’s border barriers will not help enforce the law or keep American citizens safe," he said. "This fight is not over, and I look forward to defending our state’s sovereignty."