Supreme Court allows Biden to cut Texas border wire

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Biden administration can remove or cut parts of a concertina-wire fence that Texas built along the Mexican border to block migrants.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Biden administration, allowing it to remove or cut sections of a concertina-wire fence that Texas built along the Mexican border to prevent migrants from entering the state.

The decision, by a narrow 5-to-4 margin, was a win for the administration in the escalating conflict between the White House and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a vocal opponent of President Biden’s border policy who has transported migrants to northern cities by bus.

Mr. Abbott, a Republican in his third term, has spent billions of dollars since 2021 to enforce strict measures at the border to deter migrants. These include placing concertina wire on the banks of the Rio Grande, setting up a buoy barrier in the river and passing a broad law that authorizes state and local law enforcement to arrest migrants crossing from Mexico.

The justices overturned a lower court ruling that had largely blocked the administration from cutting the wire while the case is under review, without giving any explanations, which is usual when they handle emergency requests. The court’s three liberal justices were joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Amy Coney Barrett to form the majority.

Mr. Abbott’s spokesman, Andrew Mahaleris, defended Texas’ actions and pledged to continue pursuing the case. “The lack of razor wire and other deterrence methods encourages migrants to make unsafe and illegal crossings between ports of entry,” he said in a statement, adding, “This case is ongoing, and Governor Abbott will keep fighting to protect Texas’ property and its constitutional right to secure the border.”

Lydia Guzmán, the national immigration leader of the League of United Latin American Citizens, welcomed the decision. “The Supreme Court ruling will help save lives at the U.S.-Mexico border if Governor Abbott follows the decision,” she said in a statement. “Moreover, the action by the justices enables Congress to work together to fix the broken immigration system.”

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had restricted the power of federal Border Patrol agents to cut the wire last month. The panel forbade agents “from damaging, destroying or otherwise interfering with Texas’ c-wire fence” while the appeal is pending, but allowed an exception for medical emergencies that could cause “serious bodily injury or death.”

Texas’ attorney general, Ken Paxton, filed a lawsuit against the administration in October, claiming that Border Patrol agents had illegally damaged state property and hindered the state’s efforts to stop migrants from crossing the border. The lawsuit said that border agents cut the wire at least 20 times “to admit aliens illegally entering Texas.”

The wire has injured migrants, and drownings in the Rio Grande’s fast currents have increased. In court documents, Mr. Paxton argued that federal officials used bolt cutters and forklifts to destroy parts of the fence for no other reason than to let migrants in.

In the Biden administration’s emergency request, Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar denied the allegation that federal officials had done anything wrong. “Border Patrol agents’ use of discretion regarding the means of facilitating the capture, inspection and processing of noncitizens does not imply that they cut wire for improper purposes,” she wrote.

Ms. Prelogar called the lower court’s injunction “clearly erroneous,” and said the fence interfered with Border Patrol agents’ duties.

This month, federal officials said that state officials had “physically prevented” Border Patrol agents from responding to reports of a drowning in an area where the state had installed concertina wire. Texas officials contested that account.

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