A migrant surge continues to overwhelm authorities at the US-Mexico border — and in US cities where many asylum-seekers are being sent.
Here are the latest developments:
The Biden administration has given Texas until the end of Wednesday to stop blocking the US Border Patrol’s access to 2.5 miles along the US-Mexico border that includes the area where a woman and two children drowned after state authorities last week barred federal agents from the zone, according to a Department of Homeland Security letter Sunday exclusively obtained by CNN.
The letter to Texas’ Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton says the state’s actions “have impeded operations” and are unconstitutional, and it cites the deaths – among the latest in the ongoing migrant crisis – near a city park abutting the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass where state authorities have erected fencing and kept out federal agents.
The Department of Homeland Security warns it will – by the end of Wednesday – “refer the matter to the Department of Justice for appropriate action and consider all other options available to restore Border Patrol’s access to the border” if Texas doesn’t confirm it will “cease and desist its efforts to block Border Patrol’s access in and around the Shelby Park area and remove all barriers to access to the U.S.-Mexico border,” the letter states.
“Texas’s failure to provide access to the border persists even in instances of imminent danger to life and safety,” the letter from Department of Homeland Security General Counsel Jonathan Meyer reads. “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.”
Paxton on Wednesday doubled down on the state’s actions, saying, “Texas will not surrender,” in a statement issued by his office.
Paxton responded to the federal government with a three-page letter claiming Texas has constitutional authority to defend its territory, a power he plans to continue to fight for in the courts, according to the letter.
In the letter, Paxton said Border Patrol personnel have access to Shelby Park to respond to medical emergencies.
The Wednesday deadline marks the latest signpost of intensifying tensions between state and federal officials as the White House and lawmakers challenge Texas’ policies, including a new law that makes entering the state illegally a state crime. Friction over the issue also has spilled into states where migrants have been sent by Texas officials or otherwise have gone and has prompted online anti-migrant rhetoric to swell.
Supreme Court also weighs border access
The Biden administration also has asked the Supreme Court to intervene after Texas sued over Border Patrol agents’ practice of removing razor wire put in place by the state along part of the border near Eagle Pass. An appeals court ordered the agents to stop removing the wire while legal challenges play out, and the administration has asked the high court to step in on an emergency basis to wipe that order.
The drownings Friday “underscore that Texas is firm in its continued efforts to exercise complete control of the border and land … and to block Border Patrol’s access to the border even in emergency circumstances,” the Biden administration wrote late Monday in a filing to the Supreme Court in that case.
“It is impossible to say what might have happened if Border Patrol had had its former access to the area – including through its surveillance trucks that assisted in monitoring the area,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in the filing.
“At the very least, however, Border Patrol would have had the opportunity to take any available steps to fulfill its responsibilities and assist its counterparts in the Mexican government with undertaking the rescue mission,” she continued. “Texas made that impossible.”
The Texas Military Department, meanwhile, said by the time Border Patrol agents requested access to the site Friday night, “the drownings had occurred, Mexican authorities were recovering the bodies, and Border Patrol expressed these facts to the TMD personnel on site.”
“At no time did TMD security personnel along the river observe any distressed migrants, nor did TMD turn back any illegal immigrants from the US during this period,” the Texas Military Department said. “Also, at no point was TMD made aware of any bodies in the area of Shelby Park, nor was TMD made aware of any bodies being discovered on the US side of the border regarding this situation.”
Far-right terms used in mass call to border
The federal-state border standoff in Texas has prompted members of a kind of group known for using demonizing rhetoric and intersecting with extremists to issue a call on social media for people to travel to Eagle Pass in protest.
The group is urging “patriots” from across the country to go to Eagle Pass “to demand that elected officials honor their oath of office to defend the border against a ‘foreign invasion,’” according to a member’s online video that employs the term far-right groups use for the border crisis.
A property owner will let the group set up tents, campers and RVs, he says.
These “patriots,” however, are misinformed about border security and immigration policy, said Texas state Rep. Eddie Morales Jr., a Democrat who represents 11 counties in West Texas, including the city of Eagle Pass. Instead, they should camp outside Congress and demand lawmakers act on immigration, he said.
“The Republicans control the House of Representatives right now, if they were truly interested in solving this issue, they would fast track a border immigration and a border security bill by tomorrow,” Morales said.
Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber is monitoring the potential arrival this weekend of people from around the country and is concerned for the safety and security of the area due to the heated rhetoric on immigration, he told CNN.
Groups like this one that use “patriot” as part of their names have emerged since 2020 in an effort to get Donald Trump to form a third major political party, the Anti-Defamation League told CNN in a statement. While such groups are not inherently extremist, they engage in demonizing rhetoric, far-right policy causes and at times intersect with extremist groups and movements, it said.
New GOP governor wants reports related to undocumented immigrants
A state away, Louisiana’s new Republican governor has directed state agencies to report any arrests of or funds spent on undocumented immigrants, he mandated in an executive order signed Friday.
“The cost of illegal immigration in this state is falling on the shoulders of hard-working Louisianans,” Gov. Jeff Landry said in a statement Tuesday. “This Executive Order will analyze data to determine the financial burden our citizens are being forced to carry because of those who do not follow the law.”
“Louisiana will always welcome those who legally immigrate, but taxpayers cannot continue to foot the bill for individuals who break the law and skip the line.”
The heads of every executive branch in the state must provide within 120 days a report to the governor’s office detailing any use “of public funds directly or indirectly, to or for the benefit of illegal aliens,” the order says.
The governor directs the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the Superintendent of the Louisiana State Police to provide monthly reports on the number of people “charged or convicted of a criminal offense” and to note whether they are documented or undocumented, according to the order.
Law enforcement is also directed in the order to “regularly publish” to the public data regarding “arrests and convictions of illegal aliens,” their nationality, their offense, whether charged or convicted and report any “known or suspected gang affiliation” for arrested undocumented immigrants and where they were arrested.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
CNN’s Melissa Alonso, Devan Cole and Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.
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