Supreme Court allows border agents to remove razor wire in Texas

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Federal border patrol agents may remove razor wire installed by Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Monday — a major victory for the Biden administration in an ongoing immigration policy dispute with the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott.

The terse, one-page order followed a DOJ filing on Jan. 12 that alleged Texas had blocked Border Patrol’s access to parts of the border and asked the court to intervene.

The five-justice majority consisted of two conservatives (Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett) and the court’s three liberals (Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson). Four conservative justices (Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh) voted in dissent.

The court did not explain its reasoning, a typical practice for the court when it rules on applications for emergency relief.

Members of the Texas congressional delegation and beyond weighed in on social media.

Rep. Chip Roy sided with Texas. He encouraged other politicians to oppose funding the Department of Homeland Security and “any other entity facilitating this brazen violation of the security & welfare of Texans.”

Republican Louisiana Rep. Clay Higgins took it further. On X, formerly Twitter, he suggested he’d been asked by the news media about the court order. “My thoughts are that the feds are staging a civil war, and Texas should stand their ground,” he wrote.

Reps. Veronica Escobar and Henry Cuellar, who previously spoke in support of removing the wire, did not immediately respond to POLITICO’s requests for comment.

The high court’s order lifted a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that prevented Border Patrol agents from cutting the concertina wire Texas installed along the Rio Grande. The concertina wire, a type of barbed wire with sharp blades, was installed by the Texas Military Department over the past three years as part of the state’s efforts to independently crack down on illegal immigration.

In September, Border Patrol agents began to cut through and remove wire in order to apprehend migrants and reach injured people to assist them. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued in October, claiming that federal agents had unlawfully destroyed state property.

Paxton’s lawsuit said border patrol agents had “seized and damaged” the razor wire “more than 20 times.”

The appeals court ruled that Border Patrol had not broken any laws, but the agency was barred from interfering with the concertina wire during the appeal.

The Justice Department said in court documents that Texas had installed additional concertina wire, which restricted access to a stretch of the Rio Grande, including part of a park with a boat ramp where Border Patrol routinely launches its patrol boats.