Texas sues to stop federal border agents from cutting wire barriers placed along Rio Grande by National Guard
Stars and Stripes October 26, 2023
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ attorney general filed a federal lawsuit this week to stop federal border agents from cutting coiled barbed wire placed by Texas National Guard soldiers along the state’s border with Mexico, according to court documents.
Troops working on a state-sponsored mission at the border installed miles of the wire to curb the flow of migrants crossing between legal ports of entry, and federal agents are destroying state property as they cut it to let people through, Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in the Del Rio Division of the Western District of Texas.
The wire is typically placed within the boundary of the United States and on land owned by the state, local governments or private citizens who have granted permission for the Guard to access it. The Texas Military Department has spent roughly $11 million on more than 70,000 rolls of wire fencing, according to the lawsuit. Guard troops can lay a quarter of a mile of wire fencing a day.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it does not comment on pending litigation.
“Generally speaking, Border Patrol agents have a responsibility under federal law to take those who have crossed onto U.S. soil without authorization into custody for processing, as well as to act when there are conditions that put our workforce or migrants at risk,” according to Homeland Security.
The lawsuit contends federal agents began cutting wire barriers more routinely last month than they had in the previous two years of the state’s border mission.
Border Patrol officials have cut wire barriers more than 20 times since Sept. 20, according to the lawsuit. That’s roughly the same number of times the Texas Military Department documented it happening during the rest of 2023.
The increase coincides with a rise in recent months of migrants detained by federal authorities along the southwest border. Border Patrol detained nearly 2.5 million people in fiscal 2023 — nearly 100,000 more than the previous year, according to Customs and Border Protection.
In the Del Rio sector, which includes 245 miles of border in west Texas, there was a 54% increase in border crossings from August to September, according to federal officials.
Named plaintiffs on the lawsuit are Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Troy Miller, Border Patrol Chief Jason Miller and Del Rio Sector Chief Juan Bernal.
Paxton asked the court to stop federal agents from “seizing and destroying” the wire barriers, declare the destruction illegal and repay Texas for the damage. The lawsuit does not specify a dollar amount.
“The courts must put a stop to it, or [President Joe] Biden’s free-for-all will make this crushing immigration crisis even worse,” Paxton said in a statement.