A Texas National Guard soldier looks through a coiled barbed wire barrier into Mexico from Eagle Pass, Texas, on May 23, 2022.

A Texas National Guard soldier looks through a coiled barbed wire barrier into Mexico from Eagle Pass, Texas, on May 23, 2022. (Rose L. Thayer/Stars and Stripes)

AUSTIN, Texas — Federal agents were ordered by a judge Monday to stop cutting wire barriers put near the U.S.-Mexico border by the Texas National Guard to deter migrants from crossing into the United States between legal ports of entry.

Texas filed a lawsuit that claims Border Patrol agents are damaging state property, yet a spokesperson with the Department of Homeland Security said the agency is obligated to reach the migrants once they are on American soil and take them into custody.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, requested the emergency restraining order Friday to stop the practice of cutting the state’s wire barriers just two days after filing a federal lawsuit about it.

“Another win for Texas and our historic border mission,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday on social media. “[President Joe] Biden created this crisis and has tried to block us at every turn.”

Abbott sent troops to the border two years ago to work alongside the state police to deter human and drug smuggling along the state’s border with Mexico. The mission, known as Operation Lone Star, is separate from a federal National Guard mission to support Customs and Border Protection with non-law enforcement activities.

The Texas Military Department said troops working on Operation Lone Star have installed nearly 106 miles of coiled barbed wire to curb the flow of migrants crossing between legal ports of entry all along the border with Mexico. The wire is typically placed within the boundary of the U.S., and on property owned by the state, local governments or private citizens who have granted permission for the Guard to access private property.

Border Patrol agents have cut those barriers more than 20 times since Sept. 20, according to the lawsuit filed in the Del Rio Division of the Western District of Texas. Cutting the barrier damages the state’s property, according to the lawsuit.

Agents last week used a forklift to raise the wire barrier so more than 300 migrants who had already reached U.S. soil could walk under it and be processed by Customs and Border Protection, according to court documents. Paxton cited this incident in his emergency filing.

Judge Alia Moses put the temporary restraining order in place until Nov. 13 and only specified it protects barriers installed in the west Texas city of Eagle Pass, which has seen a steep increase in border crossings this year. The judge granted an exception for medical emergencies, according to court documents.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that it will comply with the court’s order, but 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.

A court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 7, according to online court records.

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Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

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