Texas argued Saturday that the Biden administration’s claim that local authorities are preventing the federal government from accessing parts of the border reflects a “lack of on-the-ground understanding” of the situation.

The Texas Department of Public Safety took control of Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Thursday, prompting the Biden administration to write in a court filing Friday that Border Patrol is now being prevented from accessing the border near the park. But Texas told the Supreme Court in a filing Saturday that Border Patrol had already abandoned most of its operations at Shelby Park in November after a district court temporarily blocked the federal government from removing border wire installed by state authorities, adding that the government “overstates what the Texas National Guard has done and its impact on Border Patrol operations.”

“This case began when federal Border Patrol agents began cutting wire fences that, among other uses, helped channel individuals— unlawful migrants and U.S. citizens alike—to a lawful border crossing at a port of entry,” the filing states. “Border Patrol began this practice of destroying Texas’s property, according to the district court’s findings, in order to ‘facilitate the surge of migrants into Eagle Pass,’ using boats to ‘literally usher’ people across illegally.”

Illegal crossings at Eagle Pass have meanwhile slowed since the government withdrew, Texas Solicitor General Aaron Nielson wrote.

“That is itself evidence that the district court’s TRO and the Fifth Circuit’s injunction have remedied irreparable harm: In response to those orders preventing the United States from ‘establish[ing] an unofficial and unlawful port of entry,’ cartels and other such groups predictably stopped attempting to cross there,” the filing continues. “Federal immigration officials understandably do not wish to acknowledge it, but the cartels go wherever they think they can find cheap, swift, and illegal entry.”

Nielson wrote that the Department of Justice’s Friday filing was “the first time” the state learned that border patrol’s activities depended on access to a boat ramp near Shelby Park because leadership did not communicate federal law enforcement’s objections.

“Texas is currently working to ensure that Border Patrol has access to the boat ramp for the reasons cited by the Solicitor General in her brief—namely, surveillance, patrol, and humanitarian rescue,” the filing states. “Texas would also be pleased—as it has in the past—to provide reclaimed highway material or assistance to improve access to the other boat ramps, and to otherwise help Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector do its congressionally assigned job of securing the border.”

Just yesterday, Border Patrol boats were seen in the water “after Texas secured the area,” the motion alleges, noting that the government’s access was “never impeded because there are a number of other boat ramps in the vicinity unaffected by Texas’s use of Shelby Park.”

“It appears that Border Patrol chose to voluntarily remove boats only after filing notice with the court,” the filing states.

The Biden Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asked the Supreme Court Jan. 2 to freeze an order temporarily blocking the administration from removing the border wire while the Fifth Circuit considers Texas’ appeal. Texas sued the Biden administration over Border Patrol’s practice of cutting the wire, which local authorities installed to limit illegal crossings, in late October.

Katelynn Richardson on January 13, 2024

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