Supreme Court allows Biden administration to remove razor wire on US-Mexico border in 5-4 vote

John Moore/Getty Images

In this Sept. 27 photo, U.S. Border Patrol agents cut an opening with razor wire after migrant families crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico in Eagle Pass, Texas.



CNN

The Supreme Court has allowed U.S. Border Patrol agents to remove the razor wire used by Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott's security initiative along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The The vote was 5-4.

The judges' order is a major victory for President Joe Biden in his ongoing dispute with Abbott over border policy, which has been particularly fraught in recent days. Three migrants drowned In one stretch of the Rio Grande, state officials have blocked agents' access, prompting the administration to further press for the High Court's intervention.

A federal appeals court last month ordered Border Patrol agents to stop removing razor wire along a small stretch of the Rio Grande while court proceedings continue, and the Justice Department asked judges earlier this month. Enter on an urgent basis To clear that order they made on Monday.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanagh said they would have denied the federal request.

Steve Vladek, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said that while the order was a victory for the Biden administration, the delay in issuing it raises questions about the future.

“Whatever one thinks about current immigration policy, it shouldn't be controversial, we can't prevent states from enforcing federal law — we shouldn't be setting the stage for Democratic-led states to block the implementation of federal policies by Republican presidents,” Vladek said. “The fact that four justices would have left the lower court injunction still in place can be taken, rightly or wrongly, as a sign that some of the long-standing principles of constitutional federalism may be in flux.”

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Lawyers for the Biden administration argued that the appeals court's ruling “overturns” the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which states that federal laws take precedence over state laws.

“As a result of Texas' position, states across the country can use their laws to block the federal government's exercise of power,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Preloger wrote in court papers.

“If the injunction is upheld, it will prevent Border Patrol agents from carrying out their responsibilities to enforce immigration laws and protect against the risk of injury and death,” Briloger asserted. Be politically accountable.

In a follow-up filing with the high court, Prelogger said the new barriers recently erected by Texas — including new fences, gates and military Humvees — “demonstrate an escalation” of the state's efforts to curb the government's border patrol duties and “strengthen” the need for swift intervention in the matter.

He also told the court that Texas violated a key part of the injunction that allows federal agents to cut wires for medical emergencies, arguing that two children and a woman drowned earlier this month and were rescued by Mexican authorities. The two other settlements on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande “underscore that Texas remains committed to its continued efforts … to prevent Border Patrol agents from entering their territory, even in emergency situations.”

The government filed suit last year Border Patrol agents tried to stop the concertgoer from cutting the wire, saying it illegally destroyed government property and undermined security to help migrants cross the border.

The 5th Circuit is currently weighing legal questions about whether the federal government has the authority to cut a line that Texas installed along the banks of the Rio Grande. Oral arguments in the case will be heard on February 7.

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Texas urged the Supreme Court to reject the Biden administration's request, telling the justices in court documents that there is “no basis for this court's intervention, much less now.”

Prosecutors noted that the appeals court was speeding up its review of the case after the Biden administration filed its emergency request with the justices — a decision that undermined the need for swift action by the nation's highest court.

“In any case, cutting Texas' fence to drive thousands of people into Texas has nothing to do with inspection, fear or removal,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other attorneys for the state wrote in court documents.

“The district court's findings demonstrate that (the administration's) actions were so far removed from what Congress recognized as having nothing to do with the defendants' statutory authority,” they told the court.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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