Governor Greg Abbott has doubled down on efforts to assert Texas’ authority along the border, blocking federal agents’ access and announcing new measures to deter migrants, despite legal challenges from the Biden administration.
- On January 11th, 2024, Texas National Guard troops took control of Shelby Park in Eagle Pass and have since prevented Border Patrol from accessing the area
- They have also been blocking migrants’ access to asylum processing
- After 3 migrants drowned attempting to cross the Rio Grande near the park on January 12th, Biden administration officials accused Texas of barring Border Patrol from conducting rescues
- Texas officials dispute this account
- On January 13th, the Department of Homeland Security sent a cease and desist letter demanding Texas stop interfering with Border Patrol’s access
- Texas AG Ken Paxton refused the order on January 18th
- On January 22nd, the Supreme Court allowed the federal government to remove razor wire installed by Texas, but Abbott has added more wire and invoked the “invasion clause”
- Abbott signed a law allowing Texas officers to charge migrants with trespassing. It takes effect in March
- The Biden administration says it will pursue legal action if Texas interferes with federal authority.
Background on Texas Border Tactics
Since March 2021, Governor Abbott has deployed thousands of National Guard troops and state police to the border under Operation Lone Star
Tactics have included:
- Mass arrests of migrants for misdemeanor trespassing
- Blocking points of entry into Texas
- Installing concertina wire along the Rio Grande
- Barricading access to the border with shipping containers
Abbott says these methods are necessary because of the federal government’s “open border policies”. The Biden administration says Abbott is interfering with immigration enforcement in violation of the Constitution.
Impact on Migrants and Border Communities
Experts warn Abbott’s escalating tactics are putting migrants and border residents at risk
- Human rights groups say the harsher policies are pushing migrants into more dangerous crossing areas controlled by cartels
- Advocates say blocking access to asylum processing could violate US and international law
- Border city officials say the state’s actions are disrupting daily life and hurting local economies
- 2022 saw a record number of migrant deaths along the Texas border.
Looking Ahead to 2024
With both Biden and Abbott up for re-election in 2024, immigration is likely to remain a contentious issue:
- Abbott’s border crackdowns have boosted his popularity among Republicans
- He’s expected to make immigration enforcement central to his campaign.
- Biden has struggled to balance calls for compassionate policies with securing the border
- His immigration record could be a vulnerability in 2024.
Ongoing legal battles between the federal government and Texas could raise questions around states’ rights. But most experts believe federal authority will ultimately prevail. Meanwhile, the fates of millions of migrants hang in the balance.
Advocates argue only comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level can fix the broken system long-term . But such reform remains elusive, and migrants pay the price.