This story was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
A federal judge on Monday ordered immigration agents to stop taking down or cutting through concertina wire placed on the Texas-Mexico border in Eagle Pass by state troopers and National Guard members in their efforts to deter migrants from crossing the border illegally.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration last Tuesday, claiming that the Border Patrol illegally destroyed state property when its agents cut through concertina wire on the banks of the Rio Grande to “assist” migrants to “illegally cross” the border.
District Judge Alia Moses, a George W. Bush appointee, said she would grant Paxton’s request.
“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,” Moses wrote in her order.
Moses will hear arguments from lawyers from Paxton’s office and the Biden administration in the lawsuit on Nov. 7. The temporary restraining order will expire on Nov. 13 at 9:30 a.m. Moses will determine whether her restraining order will continue past Nov. 13 after the hearing.
Within the past three years, the Texas Military Department has spent $11 million to place 70,000 rolls of concertina wire in different parts of the Texas-Mexico border, most notably in Eagle Pass, where migrants have been seriously injured trying to get through the wire.
According to the lawsuit, filed in the Western District of Texas, Border Patrol agents “not only cut Texas’ concertina wire, but also attach ropes or cables from the back of pickup trucks to ease” migrants’ ability to get onto the U.S. side of the river.
The lawsuit names the heads of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Border Patrol as defendants. Paxton’s office is asking a federal judge to rule that immigration agents cutting the wire is illegal and award damages to the state.
The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Border Patrol, said in an email after Paxton filed his lawsuit that it doesn’t respond to pending litigation.
“Generally speaking, Border Patrol agents have a responsibility under federal law to take those who have crossed onto U.S. soil without authorization into custody for processing, as well as to act when there are conditions that put our workforce or migrants at risk,” a spokesperson for the department said last week.
Earlier this year in Eagle Pass, a state trooper claimed the state’s concertina wire had injured people, including a woman who had a miscarriage while entangled in the wire. In an email message to a superior that was later leaked to reporters, the trooper also said that a 4-year-old girl who attempted to cross the wire “was pressed back by Texas Guard soldiers due to the orders given to them.” The temperature “was well over 100 degrees” and the girl passed out before receiving medical treatment, the email said.
The trooper’s claims are under investigation.
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