Texas Attorney General sues Biden administration after federal agents cut razor wire on the border

The latest lawsuit from Texas alleges federal agents are prohibiting the state from securing its border with Mexico. But federal agents argue cutting the wire is sometimes necessary to keep agents and migrants safe.

 Migrants in Eagle Pass, Texas walk near concertina wire erected by state officers participating in Operation Lone Star.
The Associated Press

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the Biden administration for what the state calls intentionally destroying parts of a border barrier erected by the Texas National Guard.

The lawsuit comes after reports and videos surfaced last month showing that U.S. Border Patrol agents have cut strands of concertina wiring installed as part of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's Operation Lone Star. That multi-billion, state-led border mission began in 2021.

In one video, agents cut portions of the barrier on the northern banks of the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, an area that has seen a record number of unauthorized crossings this year. Abbott posted a different video on social media, commenting that federal agents were "opening the floodgates to illegal immigrants."

Federal agents have pushed back against those claims and said wire and other obstacles prevent Border Patrol from doing its job, adding that they also need to consider migrants' safety.

U.S. Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens told Reuters last month that his agents have the right to remove barriers if necessary.

"If they start getting swept away by the currents, if they start succumbing to the environment — the extreme temperatures, the humidity you all feel right now — and my men and women see that, they are not going to let somebody die or get into harm’s way,” he said.

In his filing Paxton said that the federal agents were "undermining Texas's efforts to stem the flow of illegal immigration."

"By cutting Texas's concertina wire, the federal government has not only illegally destroyed property owned by the State of Texas; it has also disrupted the State's border security efforts, leaving gaps in Texas's border barriers and damaging Texas's ability to effectively deter illegal entry into its territory," the filing states.

Paxton is asking a federal judge to order agents to stop the practice. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Del Rio and names Owens, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller and acting Del Rio Border Patrol Sector Chief Juan Bernal as defendants.

The lawsuit is the latest in the state's ongoing battle with the federal government over border security. The two are currently battling in court over the legality of 1,000 feet of a floating barrier Abbott ordered installed in the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass. The buoys come equipped with large, circular saw-like blades and are anchored into the ground, which opponents argue can endanger asylum seekers trying to reach U.S. soil. The federal government has argued in court that the buoys violate international law since the Mexico also shares the Rio Grande. The buoys are still in place while the lawsuit is pending before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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