Judge temporarily blocks federal officials from removing razor wire set up by Texas to deter border crossings


Washington — A federal judge on Monday temporarily barred the Biden administration and Border Patrol agents from removing the razor wire Texas state officials have set up to hinder the entry of migrants along the border with Mexico, with limited exceptions, such as medical emergencies.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Alisa Moses blocked federal officials from removing, scrapping, disassembling or encumbering concertina wire that Texas state authorities assembled near the border town of Eagle Pass to impede the passage of migrants entering the country illegally. Moses said federal officials could only remove the wire to “provide or obtain emergency medical aid.”

The order is an early legal victory for Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and other Texas officials in their latest lawsuit against the Biden administration, which has found itself defending most of its major immigration policies from lawsuits filed by officials in the Lone Star state and other GOP-led states. The ruling, however, will not be the final say on the matter.

The judge’s order

Immigrants cross over razor wire after crossing from Mexico into the U.S. on Sept. 28, 2023, in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Getty Images

Moses’ temporary restraining order will last for two weeks, through Nov. 13. She scheduled a hearing on the case for Nov. 7. Representatives for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Border Patrol, did not immediately comment on Monday’s order. 

When it filed its lawsuit last week, Texas said Border Patrol agents were cutting its razor wire to facilitate the entry of migrants into the U.S. But administration officials have said Border Patrol agents sometimes cut Texas’ razor wire to provide medical assistance to migrants in distress and because they need to process migrants who have already set foot on U.S. soil.

U.S. law requires federal immigration agents to process migrants to determine whether they should be deported, released, detained or transferred to another agency once they reach American soil, which is the middle of the Rio Grande in Texas’ case.

A larger feud

The feud over the razor wire is the latest clash between the federal government and Abbott, which has accused President Biden, a Democrat, of not doing enough to deter illegal border crossings, which have reached record high levels over the past two years.

In fiscal year 2023, which ended on Sept. 30, Border Patrol recorded over 2 million apprehensions of migrants along the Mexican border, federal data show. It was only the second time the agency has surpassed that threshold.

Along with deploying National Guard units to the southern border to set up razor wire and impede the entry of migrants, Texas has been arresting some migrants on state trespassing charges and busing thousands of asylum-seekers to Democratic-led cities like New York and Chicago, without notifying local authorities.


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