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US Federal Government, Texas Governor Abbott Struggle Over Border Policy

Despite a Supreme Court order to cease placing razor wire along the Texas section of the US-Mexico border, Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) has said he has no plans to end Operation Lone Star, Texas’ border defense initiative. Abbott claims that, under Article One of the US Constitution, the increasing amount of undocumented immigration constitutes an invasion of his state, which the federal government has failed to repel. He has also stated his belief that President Joe Biden has refused to enforce immigration laws and has even violated them.

The Biden administration has pushed back against Abbott’s measures, saying that border policy is the federal government’s exclusive domain, as affirmed by the 2012 Supreme Court case Arizona v. United States. According to the case, states must comply with federal rulings and regulations. 

Hardship On The Border

The disagreement between the state and federal governments dates back to 2021 when Governor Abbott began Operation Lone Star after the Biden administration’s rollback of Trump-era restrictions on undocumented immigration. The operation is a continuation of former President Trump’s plan to build a US-Mexico border wall, with the Texas Military Department taking over the construction project from the federal government, which abandoned it due to the political shift after the November 2020 election. 

In addition to the wall, thousands of National Guard troops, some with armored vehicles, were deployed to the Rio Grande to assist border patrol agents in arresting migrants on charges of criminal trespassing. This charge is not applied to undocumented immigration anywhere else in the United States. Those arrested are often bused or flown to cities with Democratic Party governments, and many others, including unaccompanied children, have been held in what human rights organizations consider to be unsanitary and inhumane conditions.

Abbott and other Republicans have said that the loosening of immigration restrictions is irresponsible and shows that Biden “cares more about people who are not from this country,” according to the Texas Tribune. They claim that the current state of undocumented and undocumented immigration only empowers cartels and drug smugglers. Even some Democrats have criticized the Biden administration’s relaxing of Trump-era regulations. However, they have suggested that the solution is greater state-federal cooperation rather than unilateral state action.

Conflict Flares

Court injunctions against the empowerment of Texas state officials over federal ones date back to at least 2022 when a district judge ruled that Operation Lone Star violated the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. The Texas Third Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently upheld the ruling.

In 2023, the Department of Justice sued Texas to force the removal of floating anti-migrant barriers placed in the Rio Grande; in response, Texas claimed that the ongoing surge of migrants constituted an invasion, which would allow the placement of the barriers. According to the Texas Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit, however, Texas has not offered solid evidence of the barriers’ effectiveness; the case has yet to be resolved.

The most recent flare-up of the state-federal standoff stems from conflicting court orders about whether federal border patrol agents are allowed to cut razor wire set up by the Texas government. The Texas Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals says that federal employees may only cut the wire in case of an emergency. The Supreme Court ruled that they may cut the wire freely, as Abbott’s measures infringe on the federal government’s constitutional power of border regulation.

After the Supreme Court’s ruling, federal agents attempted to remove razor wire and rescue migrants who were reportedly drowning in a park in Eagle Pass, Texas but were blocked from doing so by Texas state troopers and the National Guard.

Partisan Responses

Democratic politicians have called upon President Biden to federalize the Texas National Guard, something Governor Abbott said he would oppose if carried out. Former Republican President Donald Trump has urged Republican state governments to support Texas in their anti-immigration measures.


Image credits: Brandon Bell/Getty Images, Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

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Tags: Politics Immigration Joe Biden United States Border Texas Greg Abbott


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