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Supreme Court will allow removal of razor wire border barrier in Texas

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Today a narrowly divided U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Biden administration. U.S. Border Patrol agents will now be allowed to remove razor wire placed by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott at the U.S.-Mexico border. White House officials and immigration advocates called the state's actions dangerous and inhumane. And the White House had said the state's border policies are prohibiting federal agents from performing their duties. NPR's Jasmine Garsd covers immigration and joins us now. Hi there.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Hi.

SUMMERS: So, Jasmine, give us a little background on today's decision.

GARSD: So back in 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott launched a controversial, state-led border security effort called Operation Lone Star. He added thousands of Texas state troopers and National Guard soldiers to patrol parts of the Texas-Mexico border, installed a floating barrier in the Rio Grande and razor wire. It's proven deadly. Drownings in the Rio Grande have become more common. In recent days, three migrants drowned in a section of the Rio Grande where state officials have blocked agents' access to. Last month a federal appeals court ordered Border Patrol agents to stop removing razor wire along the small stretch of the Rio Grande. Now, in response, earlier this month, the Biden administration turned to the Supreme Court. Today the Supreme Court lifted that decision temporarily while the state's legal challenge to the practice plays out.

SUMMERS: I mean, Jasmine, there has been a long-simmering dispute between Texas and the Biden administration over illegal crossings and who has control over the border. How does this fit in?

GARSD: Oh, this dispute is absolutely part of a much larger battle over immigration enforcement - federal versus state. It's been escalating for years, not only with border enforcement. Abbott has also been behind the bussing of recently arrived migrants to democratic sanctuary cities like New York and Chicago. Today is a victory for the Biden administration, but Governor Abbott has been firm in saying that Texas needs to be able to act on its own because the federal government isn't doing enough to curb immigration. So we're certainly going to be seeing a lot more of these types of clashes.

SUMMERS: And, Jasmine, this is not the only legal action taken by the White House against the state of Texas' border policies. Can you tell us about the others?

GARSD: That's right. Last week Texas officials seized control of a city park in Eagle Pass on the border and fenced it off. Some questioned the timing of this given that border apprehensions have actually been lower in recent weeks. In any case, the administration has argued that Border Patrol needs this park to monitor the river and to launch boats. Shortly after, the Justice Department asked the U.S. Supreme Court to order Texas to allow Border Patrol agents back into that park. The Supreme Court has not yet acted on that case. Now, in addition to all this, Texas' controversial and deadly floating barrier in the Rio Grande is also in the courts after being challenged by the Biden administration. The barrier currently remains in place while litigation continues. There's also a new Texas state law. When that takes effect, it would allow police to arrest migrants on state charges of illegal entry. That's being challenged in the courts as well. So it really comes down to the issue of who...

SUMMERS: Right.

GARSD: ...Calls the shots in setting border enforcement policy.

SUMMERS: NPR's Jasmine Garsd. Thank you so much.

GARSD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.