Stand-off on the Rio Grande: Texas National Guard faces off against the federal government in a fight over razor wire

A tense standoff between Texas National Guard troops and the federal government escalated on Tuesday after the state’s military said it would “hold the line” in a battle for control of a stretch of the border with Mexico.

The long-running power struggle between the once-independent state and the Biden administration was sparked by Texas authorities placing razor wire at a park on the banks of the Rio Grande that has seen high numbers of illegal crossings. Last week, the Texas National Guard blocked federal border patrol troops from entering the area in the town of Eagle Pass, accusing them of destroying the fortifications.

After being asked by the Biden administration to intervene, the Supreme Court issued an order on Monday allowing for US Border Patrol agents to clear out the razor wire, which should have settled the matter.

A Texas Department of Public Safety officer guards an entrance to Shelby Park, on 11 January 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas (© 2024 Sam Owens / San Antonio Express-News)

But on Tuesday, the Texas National Guard issued a blistering statement vowing to “protect the sovereignty of our State” and its troops were filmed adding more razor wire to the contested area in Eagle Pass.

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“The Texas Military Department continues to hold the line in Shelby Park to deter and prevent unlawful entry into the State of Texas. We remain resolute in our actions to secure our border, preserve the rule of law, and protect the sovereignty of our State,” the Texas National Guard said in a statement.https://d-1742872963866365229.ampproject.net/2401122240000/frame.html

The dispute has transformed a hitherto political battle between Republicans and Democrats into a very real, and unprecedented physical standoff between state and federal governments. As of Monday evening, the Texas National Guard was still blocking border patrol agents from the area.

Republicans, meanwhile, were casting the standoff as something akin to a civil war.

“The feds are staging a civil war, and Texas should stand their ground,” Rep Clay Higgins, a GOP congressman from Louisiana, said following the Supreme Court decision.

Republican congressman Chip Roy encouraged officials in his home state of Texas to ignore the Supreme Court ruling entirely.

“This opinion is unconscionable and Texas should ignore it on behalf of the [Border Patrol Union] agents who will be put in a worse position by the opinion and the Biden administration’s policies,” Mr Roy wrote on X on Monday.

Texas’ handling of migrant crossings, specifically Mr Abbott’s harsh policies implemented through his Operation Lone Star, have been subject to heavy criticism and legal challenges.

The Justice Department recently sued Texas after Mr Abbott passed a law allowing migrants to be arrested for crossing the border.

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