OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
Fed up with the Biden administration’s refusal to toughen enforcement of existing immigration and border security laws, the state of Texas has begun arresting migrants who crossed into the country illegally and occupied a state border region park.
“Texas officials arrested migrants on suspicion of criminal trespassing at a park in Eagle Pass, Texas, late Wednesday night, intensifying a legal battle between Gov. Greg Abbott and the Biden administration and escalating a showdown over border security policies,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Tensions in Texas come amid a record-high influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, which could spell problems for President Biden in an election year,” the outlet continued.
Federal immigration officials have praised Texas’ decision to deny entry to U.S. Border Patrol agents into Shelby Park and the area around it because it frees up agents so they can concentrate on other parts of the porous border.
The arrests by state authorities occurred as Texas continued to disregard a federal cease-and-desist letter addressed to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The letter stipulated that the state had until Wednesday night to cease its obstruction of Border Patrol agents’ full access to the Shelby Park area, or else the matter would be referred to the Justice Department “for appropriate action,” according to the L.A. Times.
“The recent actions by the State of Texas have impeded operations of the Border Patrol,” wrote Jonathan E. Meyer, general counsel for the Homeland Security Department, according to the outlet. “Texas has demonstrated that even in the most exigent circumstances, it will not allow Border Patrol access to the border to conduct law enforcement and emergency response activities.”
While the responsibility to enforce immigration laws lies solely with the federal government, Texas has been creatively employing state laws to arrest migrants who have crossed the border illegally, the Times added.
Under the authority of Gov. @GregAbbott_TX’s Border Disaster Declaration, @TxDPS Troopers are arresting illegal immigrants for criminal trespass at #ShelbyPark in Eagle Pass. Troopers are enforcing criminal trespass on single adult men & women. The State of #Texas will maintain a… pic.twitter.com/EuRhYDNYLH
— Chris Olivarez (@LtChrisOlivarez) January 18, 2024
As such, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton disputed DHS’s claims and said in a three-page rebuttal letter that because “the facts and law side with Texas, the State will continue utilizing its constitutional authority to defend her territory.”
Homeland Security has a “lack of on-the-ground understanding of what is happening in Shelby Park,” Paxton added.
Last week, Abbott ordered state authorities and National Guard troops to seize the park, which serves as a key infiltration point for migrants entering the country illegally while also blocking Border Patrol agents from the area.
In addition to Guard troops, Abbott, a Republican who has been feuding with the administration for the past three years over policies enacted by President Joe Biden that many believe created the current border crisis, also ordered Texas Department of Public Safety officers and other law enforcement officials to assist, according to a statement Fox News correspondent Bill Melugin obtained from the Texas Military Department.
“The Texas National Guard has maintained a presence with security points and temporary barrier in Shelby Park since 2021. The current posture is to prepare for future illegal immigrant surges and to restrict access to organizations that perpetuate illegal immigrant crossings in the park and greater Eagle Pass area,” the department 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,” Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze told the New York Post.
Eagle Pass, Texas, officials have confirmed that state authorities have taken over the area. Shelby Park is a city property that sits adjacent to the Rio Grande River, which divides the U.S. and Mexico.
Border Patrol officials actually praised the initiative. The agency’s union said in a statement that Abbott “is not harming Border Patrol operations, he is enhancing them. His seizing control of Shelby Park allows our agents to deploy to troubled spots that experience high numbers of gotaways. Governor Abbott’s actions should be seen as a force multiplier.”