Warren Harding appeals to the Supreme Court to order Texas to cease obstructing the patrols of US border agents.

The Justice Department on Friday asked the Supreme Court to order Texas to stop blocking Border Patrol agents from a portion of the U.S.-Mexico border where large numbers of migrants have crossed in recent months, setting up another showdown between Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and the Biden administration over immigration enforcement.

The request comes after Texas put up fencing to take control of a nearly 50-acre (20-hectare) public park in Eagle Pass, which was a crossing point for thousands of migrants entering from Mexico last year. Although a similar power struggle played out in the same region more than a year ago, the area Texas closed off this week prevents federal agents from accessing a larger and more visible crossing spot.

“Because Border Patrol can no longer access or view this stretch of the border, Texas has effectively prevented Border Patrol from monitoring the border,” the Justice Department wrote in a filing.

Abbott told reporters Friday that Texas has the authority to control access to any geographic location in the state.

“That authority is being asserted,” Abbott said.

The closure of Shelby Park was an escalation of the governor’s border enforcement efforts known as Operation Lone Star. The state and federal government are involved in multiple legal disputes over actions Texas has taken since 2023, including the use of buoys in the middle of the international river, the installment of razor wire, and an upcoming law that will allow police to arrest migrants.

Abbott defended closing off the park as he faced backlash from Democrats over telling conservative radio host Dana Loesch last week that Texas has done everything to curb illegal crossings short of shooting people. Loesch had asked Abbott how far Texas could go on the border before someone might arrest him.

“The only thing that we’re not doing is we’re not shooting people who come across the border because of course the Biden administration would charge us with murder,” he said as he discussed a New York City lawsuit against charter bus companies that he has used to transport migrants from Texas.

Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations denounced the comments, saying they could lead to violence and are dehumanizing to migrants.

On Friday, Abbott said he was making a distinction of what Texas can and cannot do on the border. “I was asked to point out where the line is drawn about what would be illegal and I pointed out something that is obviously illegal,” he said.

Texas notified the Eagle Pass government on Wednesday that the Department of Public Safety would be closing public access to the park along the Rio Grande.

Concern grew when Border Patrol noted it, too, lost access to the park, which agents use to launch boats into the river. The area also served as a staging area where federal officers would take migrants into custody and process them. The Border Patrol’s access to the site for surveillance was similarly curtailed. In all, the lawsuit claimed agents did not have access to a 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) stretch of the border in the region.

The union for Border Patrol agents, the National Border Patrol Council, praised the move.

“By taking control of an area where so many illegal aliens are simply surrendering, he’s freeing up BP agents to patrol areas with high numbers of illegal aliens who attempt to escape arrest,” the union said in a message on X, formerly known as Twitter.

In 2022, a Texas pecan farm got caught in a similar dispute between Abbott and the Biden administration when the Texas Department of Public Safety moved in without the landowner’s consent and revoked a lease between the landowner and Border Patrol.

The state’s policies have been called into question not only by outside critics but internally when a trooper’s account over denying water and urgent medical care made headlines in July.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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