Judge Allows Biden Admin To Keep Cutting Texas Border Wire Fencing

(John Moore/Getty Images)
November 30, 2023

A U.S. judge on Thursday rejected a bid by Texas to block federal immigration authorities from destroying razor wire fencing that the state placed along the border with Mexico to deter illegal border crossings.

U.S. District Judge Alia Moses in Del Rio, Texas, in a written order, criticized the Biden administration for its "utter failure" to prevent unlawful entry into the United States, but said Texas was unlikely to prevail on its claims that a federal policy of removing the fencing was illegal.

Moses denied the state's motion to block federal officials from destroying the wire fencing pending the outcome of the state's lawsuit filed in October.

The judge last month had ordered the federal government to temporarily refrain from cutting or removing the razor wire while she considered the state's motion.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, a Republican, said in a statement that his office was appealing the decision.

"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.

The concertina wire fencing was installed on private property along the Rio Grande river by the Texas National Guard as part of Operation Lone Star, an initiative launched by Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott in 2021 aimed at deterring illegal border crossings.

Paxton's lawsuit claims U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents recently stepped up an existing practice of cutting, destroying or otherwise damaging wire that the state had strategically placed with landowners' permission.

On Thursday, Moses said Texas had not shown at this early stage of the case that the federal government's conduct amounted to a "final agency action" that can be challenged under a federal law governing rulemaking by agencies.

Texas is separately defending its authority to install floating buoys in the middle of the Rio Grande to deter migrants.

A federal judge at the Biden administration's request in September ordered the 1,000-foot (305-meter) barrier removed, but an appeals court allowed it to remain in place temporarily while Paxton's office pursues an appeal.

(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Bill Berkrot)