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Judge rules federal border agents can’t remove or cut wire barriers on Texas’ southern border

Migrants in Eagle Pass, Texas walk near concertina wire erected by state officers participating in Operation Lone Star.
The Associated Press
Migrants in Eagle Pass, Texas walk near concertina wire erected by state officers participating in Operation Lone Star.

A federal judge has blocked the Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security and its federal agents from cutting or removing parts of a concertina wire barrier Texas law enforcement has placed near the Rio Grande.

Federal District Judge Alia Moses granted a temporary restraining order Monday that prevents the practice. The order is part of a lawsuit Texas Attorney Ken Paxton filed last week alleging U.S. Border Patrol agents were destroying state property by sometimes cutting portions of the wire that has been strung along the northern banks of the river in Eagle Pass, Texas. The state has installed the wiring as part of Texas 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.

The order is in place until Nov. 13 unless a subsequent action extends the deadline. Agents can, however, remove the wiring in emergency situations.

“The Court shall grant the temporary relief requested, with one important exception for any medical emergency that mostly likely results in serious bodily injury or death to a person, absent any boats or other life-saving apparatus available to avoid such medical emergencies prior to reaching the concertina wire barrier,” the judge wrote.

The decision is a temporary victory for Paxton, who asked for the emergency action just last Friday after he alleged that the Biden administration accelerated the process of cutting or removing entire pieces of the barrier after Texas filed that lawsuit. Paxton alleged that the Biden administration is destroying state property and preventing the state from securing its borders.

Judge Moses agreed in Monday’s order that the state would suffer “irreparable harm” due to the costs of replacing the wire barrier.

Paxton filed the lawsuit after reports and videos surfaced last month showing that U.S. Border Patrol agents have cut strands of concertina wiring near Eagle Pass. U.S. Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens told Reuters last month that his agents have the right to remove barriers if necessary.

“If [migrants] 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," he said.

As part of Monday’s order, federal agents are also prohibited from concealing or scrapping the wire barriers.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Nov. 7.

Copyright 2023 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

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