Abbott Doubles Down On ‘Invasion’ Rhetoric That Sidesteps Specifics

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Texas Republicans have been using the Supreme Court’s decision this week — to allow federal officials to cut through Texas’ razor wire that is currently blocking border patrol agents from accessing parts of the U.S.-Mexico border — to fantasize about a new “civil war.” They’ve also repeatedly characterized immigration as an “invasion” — one of their few electoral talking points heading into the 2024 elections, and a claim that Texas hopes to deploy as a legal argument in court.

As we noted yesterday, in response to the 5-4 decision allowing the Biden administration to cut through concertina wire the Texas National Guard put up near a border town — erected to deter migrants, but also, to keep the Biden administration’s border patrol from policing the border — some House Republicans encouraged Texas state officials to “ignore” the High Court’s ruling.

What “ignoring” the ruling means in practical terms in Texas’ ongoing political and legal standoff with the federal government is not entirely clear.

In a statement Wednesday responding to the decision, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott did not offer any further clarity on that front, but rather outlined his idea of a legal justification underpinning his efforts to box the Biden administration out of border enforcement and rewrite the U.S. concept of federalism.

“The Executive Branch of the United States has a constitutional duty to enforce federal laws protecting States, including immigration laws on the books right now,” Abbott said in his statement. “President Biden has instructed his agencies to ignore federal statutes that mandate the detention of illegal immigrants. The failure of the Biden Administration to fulfill the duties imposed by Article IV, § 4 has triggered Article I, § 10, Clause 3, which reserves to this State the right of self-defense. For these reasons, I have already declared an invasion under Article I, § 10, Clause 3 to invoke Texas’s constitutional authority to defend and protect itself. That authority is the supreme law of the land and supersedes any federal statutes to the contrary.”

Lt. Chris Olivarez, the spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, reiterated the inflammatory “not backing down” rhetoric being thrown around by Republicans like Reps. Chip Roy (R-TX) and Clay Higgins (R-LA), but also offered some specifics, suggesting to far-right radio host Glenn Beck Wednesday that “ignoring” the Supreme Court may just mean, in practical terms, continuing to install more and more and more razor wire.

“We’re still continuing operations at Shelby Park. We still have restricted access to Border Patrol in that area,” he said. “And, in fact, the National Guard is installing more barriers, more concertina wire, more fencing along the river to make it challenging and discourage illegal crossings. Texas is not backing down.”

The reactionary rhetoric has in turn prompted some Texas Democrats, like Rep. Joaquin Castro, to call on the Biden administration to seize control of Texas National Guard, which is currently deployed to assist with Abbott’s border efforts under the banner of Operation Lone Star.

But, as Texas state Rep. Matt Schaefer (R) unhappily suggests, the Abbott administration’s defiance may be, at least for the time being, nothing more than lip service for Republicans who need a border crisis to win reelection.

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