Biden administration asks Supreme Court to allow Border Patrol to cut or move razor wire at Texas border

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to allow federal Border Patrol agents to cut through or move razor wire Texas installed on the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a contentious effort by the state to prevent illegal border crossings.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said in a court filing that Border Patrol agents have authority under federal law to access private land at the border and that Texas has no basis to thwart them from carrying out their duties. The Biden administration says the wire prevents agents from reaching migrants who have already crossed over the border into the U.S.

The case arose when the administration of Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott, a Republican, installed the razor wire near the Rio Grande river at Eagle Pass, Texas, as part of an operation to address illegal immigration that has brought the state into conflict with the Biden administration.

Three people climb up a hill through razor wire
Migrants walk through razor wire in El Paso, Texas after crossing the border from Mexico on May 11, 2023.John Moore / Getty Images file

When Border Patrol agents cut through some of the razor wire, Texas sued, claiming the agents had trespassed and damaged state property.

A federal judge declined to impose an injunction against the federal government, but the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month ruled in favor of Texas, saying agents could not cut or move the wire unless there was a medical emergency.

“Like other law-enforcement officers, Border Patrol agents operating under difficult circumstances at the border must make context-dependent, sometimes split-second decisions about how to enforce federal immigration laws while maintaining public safety,” Prelogar wrote.

“But the injunction prohibits agents from passing through or moving physical obstacles erected by the state that prevent access to the very border they are charged with patrolling and the individuals they are charged with apprehending and inspecting,” she added.

Abbott’s immigration enforcement plan, called Operation Lone Star, also involves busing thousands of migrants to Democratic-led cities and arresting migrants on trespassing charges. The state previously placed buoys in the Rio Grande in an effort to prevent crossings, prompting the Biden administration to sue. Lower courts ordered that the buoys be removed.