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Federal judge denies Texas AG Paxton’s bid to halt federal agents from cutting razor wire on border

Migrants who crossed into the U.S. from Mexico are met with concertina wire along the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas.
Eric Gay
/
AP
Migrants who crossed into the U.S. from Mexico are met with concertina wire along the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas.

A federal judge on Thursday denied Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s demands that border agents stop cutting or removing wire barriers the state has placed on the banks of the Rio Grande.

Paxton sued the Biden administration last month after reports about U.S. Border Patrol agents sometimes cutting portions of wire strung along the northern banks of the river in Eagle Pass, Texas.

The state has installed the wiring as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, the multi-billion, state-led border mission launched in 2021 to impede the flow of migrants into Texas.

Border Patrol officials said last month that cutting the wire is sometimes necessary for agents to prevent migrants from being injured as they cross the Rio Grande.

“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," U.S. Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens told Reuters.

But Paxton argued cutting the wire “irreparably” harms Texas and disrupts the state’s efforts to secure the border. Paxton also said the actions by Border Patrol agents amounted to destruction of state property.

Federal district Judge Alia Moses initially granted a temporary restraining order that prevented agents from cutting through the barriers. But in Thursday’s order Moses denied Texas’ request for a preliminary injunction while the case plays out. Specifically, Moses said Texas hadn’t yet proven that orders to cut the wire are an official “agency action” reviewable under federal law.

Moses said the practice was confined to a few areas of the border and only implemented under specific instances, but also left the door open for Texas to reargue its case as the court challenge continues.

“The Court finds that the Plaintiff has not, at this preliminary stage, shown a substantial likelihood that it will establish the existence of a final agency action,” the judge wrote. “Of course, the Court does not suggest that the Plaintiff cannot establish final agency action when this case proceeds to be heard on the merits.”

In a statement Thursday morning, Paxton said his office has already filed an appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I am disappointed that the federal government’s blatant and disturbing efforts to subvert law and order at our State’s border with Mexico will be allowed to continue,” Paxton said. “Biden’s doctrine of open borders at any cost threatens the safety of our citizens, and we will continue to fight it every step of the way.”

Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.

Copyright 2023 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

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