Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Tuesday that he’s suing the Biden administration for allegedly cutting concertina wire at the US-Mexico border.
Federal agents, the Republican said in the lawsuit, implemented a policy in late September that saw to the destruction of the wiring, which he claims undermined the state’s border security.
“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 lawsuit states.
The lawsuit, filed in the Western District of Texas, marks the latest chapter of the legal saga between the state and the Biden administration over border security during a migration surge that is straining local and federal resources.
“Texas has the sovereign right to construct border barriers to prevent the entry of illegal aliens,” the attorney general said in a news release. “Americans across the country were horrified to watch Biden’s open-border policy in action: agents were physically cutting wires and assisting the aliens’ entry into our state. This is illegal. It puts our country and our citizens at risk. The courts must put a stop to it, or Biden’s free-for-all will make this crushing immigration crisis even worse.”
The defendants include the Department of Homeland Security; DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, US Customs and Border Protection; CBP’s acting commissioner Troy Miller; US Border Patrol; USBP’s Chief Jason Owens; and USBP Del Rio Sector acting chief patrol agent Juan Bernal.
CNN reached out to the defendants named in the lawsuit and was referred to DHS.
A DHS spokesperson said they could not comment on pending litigation. But, “generally speaking,” they said, “Border Patrol agents have a responsibility under federal law to take those who have crossed onto U.S. soil without authorization into custody for processing, as well as to act when there are conditions that put our workforce or migrants at risk.”
An administration official told CNN in July that agents have had to cut through multiple layers of concertina wire to respond to medical emergencies.
But Texas has also appeared to have done what it’s accusing the Biden administration of doing.
In July, one Texas official claimed officers may need to “open” the wire in case of emergency. The directive was made in an email dated July 15, 2023, and released to CNN by the Texas Department of Public Safety after a state trooper blew the whistle on alleged inhumane treatment of migrants in Eagle Pass, Texas. At the time, Texas denied wrongdoing and told CNN that the Office of the Inspector General was investigating.
“As we enforce State law, we may need to open the wire to aid individuals in medical distress, maintain the peace, and/or to make an arrest for criminal trespass, criminal mischief, acts of violence, or other State crimes,” Texas DPS Regional Director Victor Escalon wrote in the email. “Our DPS medical unit is assigned to this operation to address medical concerns for everyone involved. As we enforce State law, we may need to aid those in medical distress and provide water as necessary.”
An immigration attorney also told CNN in August that Texas state troopers cut the razor wire to arrest their clients for trespassing into the state.
“Some of our clients have reported DPS officers cutting the (concertina) wire so that they can get through to then only be arrested after they go through the wire,” Kristin Etter said.
Paxton is asking the court to block the defendants “from continuing to destroy and damage private property that is not theirs—without statutory authority and in violation of both state and federal law.”
The Biden administration and Texas have been at odds in recent months over how to handle border security and Tuesday’s filing comes amid an increase in apprehensions at the US southern border.
While apprehension numbers initially dropped following the May expiration of the Covid-era restriction known as Title 42, they have since ticked back up. Last month, Border Patrol apprehended more than 200,000 migrants crossing the US-Mexico border, the highest total during a one month period this year.
Texas’ approach to deterring migrants, which includes deploying floating barriers in the Rio Grande, has come under fire in recent months.
In July, the Justice Department sued Texas claiming that the buoys were installed unlawfully and asking the judge to force the state to remove them. While a district court judge ordered their removal last month, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals has allowed them to remain in place while it considers the case.