Texas National Guard blocking Border Patrol agents from accessing stretch of border: DOJ

Texas took control of a park on the Rio Grande River, officials said this week.

January 12, 2024, 11:30 AM

The Department of Justice accused the Texas National Guard of blocking Border Patrol agents from accessing a 2.5-mile stretch of the southern border in Eagle Pass, Texas, according to an overnight DOJ filing with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The filing comes as the justices on the high court weigh an emergency request from the Biden administration seeking immediate permission for the Border Patrol to remove razor wire fencing installed by the state of Texas along a 29-mile stretch of the border with Mexico.

The administration has argued that states cannot restrain federal officials from carrying out their duties – and that federal officials have primary responsibility for immigration policy and enforcement along the border. An injunction issued by a lower court against the removal is not warranted while litigation proceeds because of the "risk to human life" posed by the wire and because of the supremacy of federal law enforcement authority, the administration argued.

The state responded in its filing to the Supreme Court that removing the razor wire fencing refutes the federal government's intended purpose of enforcing immigration policy. "Defendants may not 'seek judicial blessing of practices that both directly contravene those same statutory obligations and require the destruction of the Plaintiff's property,'" the state said, citing a district court's ruling in the matter.

PHOTO: In this Aug. 24, 2023, file photo, law enforcement officials patrol the edge of Eagle Pass' Shelby Park, in Eagle Pass, Texas.
In this Aug. 24, 2023, file photo, law enforcement officials patrol the edge of Eagle Pass' Shelby Park, in Eagle Pass, Texas.
Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

The court has not said when it will weigh in on the matter.

According to the latest DOJ filing, Border Patrol agents were informed on Wednesday that state authorities were fencing off the area surrounding Shelby Park, a known staging area for the U.S. Border Patrol, the Texas National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety.

The DOJ says the Texas National Guard is now blocking Border Patrol's access and "rendering its agents unable to place mobile surveillance trucks."

The filing also says agents were denied access to a boat ramp used to access the Rio Grande, as well as a staging area it uses to inspect migrants who are apprehended while crossing into Texas between ports of entries.

"Border Patrol agents in a vehicle towing a boat to launch on the boat ramp requested access to Shelby Park, but the Texas National Guard refused to permit them to access the area. Border Patrol agents likewise requested access to the staging area and Texas National Guard refused," the filing says.

The DOJ says Border Patrol's ability to view that section of the border "is now limited to a narrow sliver from a single surveillance camera located outside of the newly fenced area."

An attached declaration by Robert Danley, Customs and Border Protection's lead field coordinator for the Del Rio sector and chief patrol agent, says Border Patrol agents and Texas DPS personnel were told by a major in the Texas National Guard that they would "no longer allow anyone, to include Texas DPS, to drop off or turn over" migrants in the fenced off area.

In a video posted on Facebook by Eagle Pass Mayor Rolando Salinas on Wednesday night, the mayor said officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety informed him that the state is taking "full control" of Shelby Park to prevent migrants from illegally crossing into Texas from Mexico.

"That is not a decision that we agreed to. This is not something that we wanted. This is not something that we asked for as a city, I want to make that clear," Mayor Salinas said in the video.

Images shot by the mayor showed the entrance to the park blocked off by fencing and military vehicles.

Shelby Park has been at the epicenter of Gov. Greg Abbott's efforts to deter unlawful crossings. It's a known staging area for the Texas National Guard and Texas DPS deployed to the border as part of Abbott's Operation Lone Star.

Salinas said he was informed the state is taking control of the park "indefinitely" under the governor's border disaster declaration that he renewed in December.

Texas DPS referred ABC News' questions to the Texas Military Department.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Texas Military Department told ABC News the move was in preparation of future attempts by migrants to cross into the state between ports of entries and "to restrict access to organizations that perpetuate illegal immigrant crossings in the park and greater Eagle Pass area."

The spokesperson said local residents would have access to the park.

The state's move follows a visit to the city by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday, where he met with CBP agents.

Abbott's office released a statement, pushing blame on President Joe Biden: "Texas is holding the line at our southern border with miles of additional razor wire and anti-climb barriers to deter and repel the record-high levels of illegal immigration invited by President Biden's reckless open border policies. Instead of enforcing federal immigration laws, the Biden Administration allows unfettered access for Mexican cartels to smuggle people into our country," spokesperson Renae Eze said.

"Texas will continue to deploy Texas National Guard soldiers, DPS troopers, and more barriers, utilizing every tool and strategy to respond to President Biden's ongoing border crisis," the spokesperson said.

White House spokesperson Angelo Fernandez Hernandez said in a statement on Friday, "Governor Abbott continues his extreme political stunts that not only seek to demonize and dehumanize people, but that also make it harder and more dangerous for Border Patrol to do their jobs. Whether it is leaving migrants on the side of the road in the dead of winter, installing razor wire to make Border Patrol’s job more dangerous, promoting extreme and unconstitutional laws like S.B. 4, or his latest actions in Eagle Pass. Governor Abbott has repeatedly proven that he is not interested in solutions and only seeks to politicize the border."

Salinas says city officials are determining if they have legal options to regain control of the park.

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