As the migrant crisis continues at the US-Mexico border and beyond, tensions between Texas and federal officials remain high.
Here are the latest developments:
Razor wire is still up along a contested section of the US-Mexico border a day after the US Supreme Court voted to let federal Border Patrol agents remove the barrier installed there as part of Texas’ Republican governor’s security initiative while the state’s legal challenge to the wire-cutting plays out.
A CNN team in Eagle Pass, Texas – recently the epicenter of the migrant crisis and near where three migrants drowned this month – spotted the razor wire Tuesday morning. The high court ruled 5-4 on Monday in a victory for President Joe Biden in the ongoing dispute with Texas over whether Border Patrol has the legal authority to cut concertina wire installed by Texas on the banks of the Rio Grande.
The day after the ruling, the Department of Homeland Security demanded Texas gives it “full access” to the border by January 26, according to a letter obtained by CNN.
Texas has said Eagle Pass’ Shelby Park area is open to the public, but US Customs and Border Protection have been blocked from accessing it, according to the letter.
The head of US Customs and Border Protection told CNN Tuesday the Supreme Court ruling “allows us to have access to the border so we can begin to gain access like we did before,” noting “the rest of the case is still under active litigation.”
There is currently “no timetable” on removing the wire, Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller said.
Now, federal Customs and Border Protection agents stand ready to “swiftly” cut through the fencing in response to any life-saving or critical operational matters, a law enforcement source told CNN. They would promptly breach the fencing to render aid to any individual in distress or if otherwise deemed “operationally necessary,” the source added.
Asked if CBP reserves the right to cut through razor wire along the border despite the ongoing dispute, the source said: “This goes far beyond ‘reserving the right’. The US Supreme Court has ordered it.”
Texas sued last year to stop the wire-cutting, saying it illegally destroys state property and undermines security in order to assist migrants in crossing the border. A federal appeals court in December ordered Border Patrol agents to stop the practice while court proceedings play out, and the Justice Department this month filed an emergency application, asking the Supreme Court to overturn that decision.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his Department of Public Safety doubled down Monday on their use of state-erected barriers.
“This is not over,” Abbott wrote Monday on X. “Texas’ razor wire is an effective deterrent to the illegal crossings Biden encourages. I will continue to defend Texas’ constitutional authority to secure the border and prevent the Biden Admin from destroying our property.”
Texas “will maintain its current posture in deterring illegal border crossings by utilizing effective border security measures,” Department of Public Safety spokesperson Lt. Chris Olivarez wrote Monday on the platform, claiming, “Texas is the only state using every strategy & resource to protect its sovereignty, combat criminal activity, & discourage illegal immigration.”
Texas authorities last week arrested migrants at Shelby Park and charged them with criminal trespassing, marking the first arrests of migrants since the state took control of the area at the US-Mexico border this month, an official said. A new state law deems entering the state illegally a state crime.
The Texas Military Department issued a statement Tuesday saying it “continues to hold the line in Shelby Park to deter and prevent unlawful entry into the State of Texas.”
“We remain resolute in our actions to secure our border, preserve the rule of law, and protect the sovereignty of our State,” said the department, which is made up of the state’s Army National Guard, Air National Guard and State Guard.
Previously, the Biden administration informed state officials they had until the end of the day on January 17 to stop blocking the Border Patrol’s access to a 2.5-mile stretch along the US-Mexico border that includes Eagle Pass or the US Justice Department would get involved, according to a letter from the Department of Homeland Security obtained exclusively by CNN.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
CNN’s Devon Cole contributed to this report.
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