Legal Battles Between Texas and Biden Administration Over Border Policies

Texas Governor Greg Abbott's efforts to curb illegal immigration have sparked legal battles with President Joe Biden's administration. One contentious issue involves the placement of razor-wire fencing along the Rio Grande. Texas also enacted S.B. 4, addressing illegal migration, which faces opposition from federal authorities. The outcome could redefine state-federal power in border control.


Reuters | Updated: 06-06-2024 23:58 IST | Created: 06-06-2024 23:58 IST
Legal Battles Between Texas and Biden Administration Over Border Policies
Governor Greg Abbott

Efforts by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott to stem a record number of migrants illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has set off a series of legal battles with the administration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat. A U.S. appeals court heard arguments on Thursday over the future of one of those initiatives - the placement of razor-wire fencing along a 29-mile stretch of the Rio Grande. Texas is appealing a ruling allowing federal border patrol agents to cut or remove the fencing.

The outcome of the legal tussle could ultimately determine how much power, if any, states possess to police international borders when they disagree with federal immigration policies. NEW LAW

The most sweeping effort made by Texas to address illegal migration is a law known as S.B. 4 that Abbott signed in December, making it a state crime to illegally enter or re-enter Texas from a foreign country. A federal judge on Feb. 29 blocked the law from taking effect, agreeing with the Biden administration and civil rights groups that it would interfere with the federal government's enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March upheld the judge's decision pending an appeal by Texas.

The law would give state law enforcement the power to arrest and prosecute violators and allows judges to order migrants to leave the U.S., with up to 20-year prison sentences for migrants who refuse to comply. Abbott and many other Republicans have said border states have no choice but to act in the face of alleged failures by Biden to address the increase in border crossings, which have reached record highs in recent years. Texas in its appeal will have to contend with a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling cited by the judge that struck down key provisions of an Arizona immigration law. The court in that 5-3 decision said states cannot make their own laws that interfere with the federal government's ability to enforce U.S. laws.

The Supreme Court has become more conservative since then, so Texas could have a more sympathetic audience if the justices ultimately take up the case. WIRE FENCING

Texas is also seeking to prevent the federal government from destroying or removing concertina wire fencing that the state has placed along the Rio Grande river near Eagle Pass, Texas, forming the border with Mexico. Texas sued the Biden administration in October over what it said was an intensified practice by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents of destroying fencing the state had strategically placed on private land with the landowners' permission. The administration has said the fencing interferes with the ability of U.S. Border Patrol agents to reach migrants who are in distress and to access patrol boats. The 5th Circuit temporarily blocked federal agents from disturbing the fencing while litigation over the issue proceeds, but the Supreme Court in January paused that ruling pending the outcome of the case. It was not clear how the 5th Circuit panel that heard the case on Thursday was leaning.

Texas in its lawsuit claims that by destroying the wire, federal agents are violating the state's property rights. A key issue in the case is whether the federal government is immune to facing the state's claims. FLOATING BARRIER

Texas is also defending its ability to maintain a 1,000-foot-long (305-meter) floating barrier in the Rio Grande river that divides the U.S. and Mexico near where it has placed concertina wire. Days after four migrants drowned in the river last July, the state installed the string of buoys, prompting a lawsuit by the Biden administration. The lawsuit claims that Texas was required to seek permission from the federal government before installing the buoys because they were placed in navigable waters, which are governed by federal environmental laws.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit - the same court that is hearing the cases involving the razor wire and the new Texas law - sided with the Biden administration in December and said the buoys had to be removed to the Texas side of the river bank. But the full appeals court, which is made up mostly of Republican appointees, agreed to reconsider that decision and heard oral arguments in May.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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