Judge rules border patrol can’t cut Texas razor wire except for urgent medical aid | US-Mexico border


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US-Mexico border

Ruling says barriers should remain intact at US-Mexico border, but allows agents to cut fence for medical emergencies

Guardian staff and agency

A federal judge has ordered border patrol agents not to interfere with razor wire that the state of Texas installed at a busy crossing for migrants on the US-Mexico border, ruling that the barrier can only be cut to provide aid during medical emergencies.

The temporary restraining order signed by US district judge Alia Moses allows federal agents to cut the wire only in order to “provide emergency medical aid” to migrants, some of whom have been gashed or snagged by the wire after crossing the Rio Grande seeking to enter Texas.

But Moses otherwise ruled that the barriers should remain intact for now as a court case over the barrier moves forward, with the Republican state authorities in Texas at loggerheads with the federal government, which has jurisdiction over enforcing immigration law.

The state last week sued the Biden administration over the destruction of razor wire in Eagle Pass, where thousands of people from dozens of countries have trekked as far as the Mexican side of the border and then crossed into the US without authorization, many hoping to claim asylum.

In late September, the number of people was outpacing federal processing resources and humanitarian aid, according to the authorities.

US Customs and Border Protection said it does not comment on pending litigation but will comply with the order.

“Border patrol agents have a responsibility under federal law to take those who have crossed on to US soil without authorization into custody for processing, as well as to act when there are conditions that put our workforce or migrants at risk,” the agency said in a statement.

The order by Moses only specifically mentions wire installed in Eagle Pass. Texas national guard members have also installed wire barriers at other sections of the border where crossings are high, including Brownsville and El Paso, at the eastern and western ends of the Texas-Mexico border, respectively.

The razor wire is part of the sprawling border security mission, known as Operation Lone Star, ordered by the rightwing Texas governor, Greg Abbott, which seeks to both deter migrants from entering from Mexico and funnel those who do cross to official ports of entry.

Migrants of all ages, including children, have received lacerations and injuries from their contact with the wire.

Abbott has turned Eagle Pass into the focus of his border mission that has pushed the boundaries of immigration enforcement. Over the past two years, Texas has put floating barriers on international waters in the river, without federal authorization, and unilaterally bussed thousands of migrants to cities led by Democrats across the US, without any liaison with the authorities or aid groups in the cities themselves.

Abbott is now seeking to give all Texas police the authority to arrest migrants and order them to leave the country under legislation that Republicans are moving through the state legislature.

Texas contends the federal government is “undermining” their border security efforts by cutting the razor wire. The order takes effect until 13 November. A hearing in the case is set for next week.

Texas filed the lawsuit against the Biden administration in federal court in Del Rio, Texas. The embattled state attorney general, Ken Paxton, said: “Texas has the sovereign right to construct border barriers to prevent the entry of illegal aliens.”

State authorities started rolling out miles of the concertina wire in May before the end of Title 42, a temporary emergency health authority used to turn migrants back during the coronavirus pandemic. The sharp wire was deployed in areas where many people commonly cross the river that marks the border, to reach Texas near such locations as Brownsville and Eagle Pass.

Migrant and environmental advocates quickly raised concerns over the damaging effects of the razor wire, which were also raised internally by those charged with enforcing its use.

A state trooper and medic described the use of their border tactics as “inhumane” in July when he sent an internal complaint documenting cases of lacerated and injured migrants.

The barrier is set up a few yards from the river or sometimes at the edge of it and would keep migrants in the water, sometimes for hours, waiting for US border patrol tasked with processing them under immigration law. In some cases, federal agents have broken through the wire to assist entangled or trapped migrants.

Texas alleges the practice of cutting through the wire increased recently when thousands of people seeking to enter the US without an appointment with the authorities waded through the river and into the area of Eagle Pass in late September.

“By cutting Texas’s concertina wire, the federal government has not only illegally destroyed property owned by the state of Texas it has also disrupted the state’s border security efforts, leaving gaps in Texas’s border barriers and damaging Texas’s ability to effectively deter illegal entry into its territory,” the complaint stated.

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.

The razor wire is just part of Abbott’s two-year effort of investing public state funds in escalated measures to block migrants from crossing the 1,200-mile Texas-Mexico border.



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