A Border Patrol agent watched a section of the wall at the border with Mexico in Sunland Park, N.M., on June 23, 2021.

A Border Patrol agent watched a section of the wall at the border with Mexico in Sunland Park, N.M., on June 23, 2021. ()

SUNLAND, N.M. (Tribune News Service) — Texas National Guard members have been at work over the last week installing razor wire along the state’s border with New Mexico under orders from Gov. Greg Abbott, according to a post by Abbott on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The wire barrier — placed along the Rio Grande in layers near Sunland Park, N.M. — is an attempt to curb a dramatic increase in migrants crossing into Texas, according to Abbott.

“Our barriers around El Paso forced the migrants crossing illegally to enter into New Mexico,” Abbott posted on X Sunday. “They then entered into El Paso from there. To end that, we are building a barrier on the New Mexico border.”

When asked for comment, Abbott’s office referred The Dallas Morning News to the Texas Military Department. The military department and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

At a roundtable last week, U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, D-N.M., called for more dialogue between the two states, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

“There needs to be better cooperation,” Vasquez said when asked about the installation of razor wire between the two states. “I don’t think putting concertina wire in the Texas section of the Rio Grande and New Mexico is really going to solve anything.” Vasquez did not respond to a request for comment.

Caroline Sweeney, a spokesperson for Lujan Grisham, told the New Mexican the state stands ready to assist to “ensure individuals are treated with compassion and respect while maintaining public safety. … We encourage Gov. Abbott to turn his attention away from a never-ending stream of political stunts and toward working in earnest for the people of the state he was elected to represent.”

In September, Abbott spoke of a possible border barrier with New Mexico. He was in New York City at an event hosted by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank. The governor told the audience a majority of undocumented migrants enter Texas through the El Paso area.

“They come through New Mexico and then go over to El Paso,” Abbott said on Sept. 27, according to a video recording posted on the think tank’s YouTube page. “And so not only are we building border barriers between the border of Texas and Mexico. We’re also having now to build border barriers between Texas and New Mexico.”

Abbott’s initiative drew criticism. “Governor Abbott is desperate to stem the migrant tide, but his aggressive measures such as constructing barriers between El Paso and New Mexico not only harass and deter asylum-seekers but provoke divisions and generate tensions and animosities between and among American citizens,” said Howard Campbell, a University of Texas at El Paso professor of cultural anthropology and a specialist in Latin American studies with a primary focus on Mexico.

In Santa Teresa, N.M., Jerry Pacheco, president of the Border Industrial Association, a nonprofit organization focused on economic development in New Mexico, said the domestic barrier cuts Texas off from its neighboring state.

“This is costly, a bad-faith measure, some kind of political statement, an extreme tactic for the optics,” said Pacheco, who has criticized Abbott’s move to enhance security state inspections of trucks and says it has resulted in costly delays in trade. “But this goes beyond politics. The governor is hurting his own state economically.”

In Sunland Park, Natividad Pasillas, who came out of retirement to aid his son’s growing lawn-mowing business, was shocked at news the Texas National Guard was installing razor wire along the New Mexico-Texas line.

“This is crazy,” Pasillas, 74, said. “What happened to safe passage? We need to be able to move between states because we are the same country.”

Last month at the Manhattan Institute, Abbott gave a nearly hour-long talk about immigration — a key campaign focus of his in recent years — and lashed out at President Joe Biden’s administration’s efforts at border security.

Abbott and the White House have been at odds regarding immigration. Adding to the strained relationship is an ongoing federal lawsuit the Justice Department filed against Abbott for buoys Texas installed along the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, a small town north of Laredo.

At an Oct. 5 hearing, judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit voiced skepticism at the state of Texas’ assertion that it needed no federal permission to install the 1,000-foot floating barrier, because the buoys are temporary.

Removing the barrier, including the 143 submerged concrete anchor blocks that weigh a combined 140 tons, would take several weeks and $300,000, said Judge Dana Douglas, a Biden appointee.

The case is still pending at the Fifth Circuit. The court handles cases from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi and is among the nation’s most conservative appeals courts.

Texas spent $850,000 to install the buoys, according to a state contract awarded to a company called Cochrane USA, as part of Abbott’s $10 billion Operation Lone Star, which includes deployments of National Guard troops and state police, and at least 60 miles of razor wire along the river.

The governor said his policies were necessary in the absence of federal immigration laws. Last month saw a rapid spike in migrants entering Texas — particularly through Eagle Pass. The sudden increase of tens of thousands of migrants crossing led to a chaotic response among local, state and federal officials.

Staff writer Arcelia Martin reported from Dallas, Aarón Torres reported from Austin and Alfredo Corchado reported from Sunland, N.M.

©2023 The Dallas Morning News.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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