The legal fight between the Texas government and the White House over control of the US-Mexico border. What's going on?

The legal fight between the Texas government and the White House over control of the US-Mexico border. What's going on?

What happened?

On January 10, Texas seized part of the US-Mexico border and blocked federal border patrol agents from working in the town of Eagle Pass, which has seen a surge in migrant crossings. The area includes Shelby Park, a city park on the Rio Grande, which is now fenced off with gates and razor wire, preventing Border Patrol access.

On January 12, after the Texas Military Department 'seized and secured' Shelby Park, two children and a mother drowned in a nearby section of the Rio Grande. Texas and US officials are now accusing each other of contributing to the circumstances of the tragedy.

On January 22, the US Supreme Court ruled that federal agents had the right to remove razor wire and other barriers that Texas authorities had erected along the Rio Grande to prevent illegal immigration at the Eagle Pass border crossing.

According to CNN, Texas authorities filed a lawsuit last year to prevent Border Patrol agents from cutting the wire. Texas officials argued that such actions illegally destroyed state property and undermined the state's security.

After the Supreme Court handed down its decision, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he was not backing down. 

This is not over. Texas’ razor wire is an effective deterrent to the illegal crossings Biden encourages,

Governor Abbott posted on X.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent a letter to the Texas' Attorney General reiterating the federal government’s demand that state authorities fully reopen the Shelby Park area to Border Patrol agents. They requested access to the area by Friday, January 26.

Record number of arrests of illegal immigrants

The Ukrainian edition of the Voice of America writes, citing the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, that the number of arrests for illegally crossing the US border from Mexico reached record levels in December but declined in the first weeks of January.

Border Patrol agents reported 249,785 apprehensions at the border with Mexico in December, up 31% from November and 13% from December last year.

Mexicans accounted for the most significant number of apprehensions in December — 56,236 — followed by Venezuelans with 46,937 apprehensions.

Another popular place for migrants crossing the border is Tucson, Arizona.

Faced with this situation, Republicans in the US Congress announced on January 3 that they would begin impeachment proceedings against the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. They blamed him for the migration crisis on the US-Mexico border.

In response, the Department of Homeland Security accused the Republicans of wasting valuable time and taxpayer money on a political manoeuvre.

For Alejandro Mayorkas to be removed from office, most lawmakers in the House of Representatives must vote against him. Then, the case will be considered in the Democratic-dominated Senate. If two-thirds of the senators vote in favour, the initiative could lead to his dismissal.

Indeed, the issue of migration has become particularly acute in the run-up to the US presidential election.

What is the Texas governor's claim?

Republican Governor Greg Abbott claims that Joe Biden has allegedly violated his oath to execute immigration laws faithfully.

Instead of prosecuting immigrants for the federal crime of illegal entry, President Biden has sent his lawyers to federal court to sue Texas for taking steps to secure the border,

Abbott said on January 24, as quoted by USA Today.  

He also considers the flow of migrants an "invasion".

Newsweek writes that Texas wants to attract volunteers from the state's military department to "deploy border security assets to high-threat areas to deny criminal organisations the ability to illegally move drugs and people into Texas".

Under the US Constitution, however, immigration issues are the federal government's responsibility.

Support from 25 states

Abbott's position was backed by the authorities of 25 states whose governors belong to the Republican Party. On January 25, they issued a joint statement saying Texas had a constitutional right to self-defence.

Republicans, unlike Democrats, are tougher on migration and crossing the southern border of the United States. 

The Biden administration has neglected its responsibilities to the states under the Constitutional compact, so Texas has every legal justification to protect the sovereignty of our states and country,

the governors said in a statement.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (a radical Republican who was Donald Trump's opponent in the Republican presidential race until he withdrew his candidacy on January 21 - ed.) said on January 26 that he was prepared to send members of the Florida National Guard to the US-Mexico border.

The United States can increase its efforts to ensure the sovereignty of the territory and the sovereignty of our country,

DeSantis told the press, as quoted by Voice of America.  

What was Joe Biden’s response?

On January 26, US President Joe Biden released a statement saying that two months ago, he had instructed his team to begin negotiations with a bipartisan group of senators to address the border crisis finally. 

Biden said he was ready to close the border in the event of a migrant crisis. He called on lawmakers to pass a bipartisan bill that would give him the authority to do so.

The law will be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve ever had in our country. It would give me, as President, a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed,

the US president said.

He added that Congress should finally provide the funding he requested in October to secure the border. This includes an additional 1,300 Border Patrol agents, 375 immigration judges, 1,600 asylum officers, and over 100 cutting-edge inspection machines to help detect and stop fentanyl at our southwest border.

Senate negotiators agree to give the US authority to significantly restrict illegal migrant crossings at the southern border

According to CNN, Senate negotiators have agreed to empower the US to significantly restrict illegal migrant crossings at the southern border.

The Senate deal, which is expected to be unveiled as soon as next week, would also speed up the asylum process to consider cases within six months – compared with the current system, under which it could take up to 10 years for asylum seekers.

In addition, the Department of Homeland Security will be granted new emergency authority to shut down the border if daily average migrant encounters reach 4,000 over a one-week span.

Journalists note that these details open a new window for negotiations that have been going on for months, as Senate leaders hope to be able to attach the deal to aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. The plan will also put pressure on Republicans to decide whether to greenlight these new authorities or reject the plan.