Supreme Court rules on Biden administration in Texas border dispute

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Supreme Court rules on Biden administration in Texas border dispute

David G Savage

January 22, 2024

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled 5-4 in favor of the Biden administration, saying Border Patrol agents can cut razor wire installed by Texas authorities that prevents them from patrolling areas along the Rio Grande.

The justices overturned a 5th Circuit Court order that prohibited Border Patrol agents from “damaging, destroying, or otherwise interfering with the Texas concertina wire fence near Eagle Pass, Texas.”

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh dissented.

U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar had appealed to the Supreme Court on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, arguing that the Constitution gives federal agents, not state officials, the power to enforce the law along the border.

“Federal law unequivocally grants Border Patrol agents the authority, without a warrant, to enter private property within 25 miles of the international border,” she said in Department of Homeland Security v. Texas.


said Texas has responded to “the increased number of border crossings” by installing “rolls of concertina wire (a type of coiled barbed wire)

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in numerous locations, including where relevant here along a 30-mile stretch of riverbank in Eagle Pass, much of which is private land,” she said.

The coils of wire “stand between Border Patrol agents and the non-residents along the border they are charged with inspecting and apprehending, physically hindering agents from fulfilling their responsibilities under federal law.”

That in turn prompted “agents


cut or move the wire under certain circumstances”,



She argued that Texas’ policy and the court order enforcing it were inconsistent


with the “fundamental constitutional principle that the federal government is not bound by the laws or policies of any particular state in the enactment and implementation of federal law.”

Texas officials argued that the razor wire “is an effective deterrent,” significantly reducing the number of illegal border crossings. They described the Eagle Pass area as the epicenter of the current influx of migrants, with nearly a quarter of migrant entries into the United States taking place there.

Citing photos showing columns of migrants leaving the river area, a federal judge said the Border Patrol cut the wire for no apparent purpose other than to allow migrants to move further inland more easily.

But Border Patrol agents helping the migrants walked inland to a processing center.

Shortly after the Biden administration appealed to the Supreme Court, a woman and two of her children drowned while trying to cross the river.

The Border Patrol said its agents were not allowed to reach the river to assist in a rescue effort, but Texas officials said the deaths were reported before federal agents arrived.


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