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Supreme Court allows temporary removal of Texas border razor-wire fencing

United States: The United States Supreme Court decided on Monday to temporarily allow Border Patrol agents to cut or remove razor-wire fencing installed by Texas officials along a portion of the Republican-controlled state’s border with Mexico to deter illegal crossings.

Upcoming Appeals

The justices, in a 5-4 decision, granted President Joe Biden’s administration’s request to stay the lower court’s ruling that temporarily blocked federal agents from interfering with fencing until litigation over these issues continues.

Two conservative voices in the court – Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the three liberal justices in the majority – while Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh dissented.

Finally, on February 7, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued a disputed interim ruling, will hear arguments regarding whether Border Patrol agents violated Texan law by cutting through the razor-wire fence.

At issue in the dispute is fencing erected by the Texas National Guard on private land along the Rio Grande as part of what was said to be Operation Lone Star, introduced in 2021 for Governor Greg Abbott from the Republican State.

Texas Challenges Federal Government

In October 2023, the administration was sued by Texas over what it said was an intensified practice by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents of doing anything to the fence that has been strategically placed on private land with consent from landowners.

Texas razor border wiring | Credits: AP Photo

While slamming the Biden administration for its “utter failure” to prevent illegal immigration into the United States, U.S. District Judge Alia Moses concluded in November that Texas’ legal arguments could not overcome the federal government’s sovereign immunity in the case. This immunity shields the federal government from civil litigation and criminal prosecution, as reported by Reuters.

Legal Battles Over Sovereign Immunity

On December 19ember, After Texas appealed, the 5th Circuit the state’s request to temporarily block federal agents from “damaging, destroying or otherwise interfering with” the razor-wire fencing while the case played out, except “if necessary to address any medical emergency.”

The 5th Circuit ruled that Moses misread a law allowing the United States government protection from some state legal claims and that Texas was likely to win its lawsuit.

In a January 2 court brief, the Biden administration urged the justices to overturn the 5th Circuit’s decision, claiming that there was no evidence that the wire had hindered migrants from crossing into the United States.

Texas Responds with New Obstacles

In a second filing on January 12, the government stated that Texas had constructed new obstacles along a portion of the state’s border with Mexico, impeding Border Patrol agents’ ability to monitor and respond to emergencies.

“Ultimately, we need adequate resources and policy changes to address our broken immigration system… That is why he (Biden) is working to find a bipartisan agreement with Congress that includes additional resources and meaningful policy reforms,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Republicans have strongly criticized Biden’s immigration policy and the flow of illegal immigrants across the US-Mexico border, a subject that is sure to ramp up ahead of the November 5 election, in which the Democratic president seeks another four years in office.

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