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Pitched border battle pits Texas' 'self-defense' claim against federal government

The White House on Thursday pushed back hard on Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's latest showdown with President Joe Biden over who controls the southern border.

In a statement posted on X on Wednesday, Abbott claimed the situation with immigrants crossing into Texas was an "invasion," and that because Biden had not enforced the law, his state had a constitutional right to "self-defense."

He said he would ignore any federal government effort to remove razor wire Texas had installed along the border with Mexico.

"The federal government has broken the compact between the United States and the states," Abbott alleged in the statement. "The Executive Branch of the United States has a constitutional duty to enforce federal laws protecting States, including immigration laws on the books right now. President Biden has refused to enforce those laws and has even violated them. The result is that he has smashed records for illegal immigration."

PHOTO: Gov. Greg Abbott speaks after signing bills designated towards enhancing border security, Austin, TX, June 08, 2023.   (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Gov. Greg Abbott speaks after signing bills designated towards enhancing border security, Austin, TX, June 08, 2023. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

MORE: Supreme Court allows federal agents to remove razor wire Texas placed at border

He argued that the state's right of self-defense superseded any federal law, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Border Patrol could remove the razor wire. (Abbot's claim that a state has a right to "self-defense" has never been tested in court.)

"That authority is the Supreme law of the land and supersedes any federal statues to the contrary," he alleged. "The Texas National Guard, the Texas Department of Public Safety and other Texas personnel are acting on that authority, as well as state law, to secure the Texas border.

Abbott had ordered the Texas National Guard and Department of Public Safety to put up the razor wire, specifically in Shelby Park, which is near the Eagle Pass section of the border, the site of heavy migrants crossing and a hotspot in the back and forth between the White House and the governor.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a campaign event in Manassas, VA, Jan. 23, 2024.  (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a campaign event in Manassas, VA, Jan. 23, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

MORE: Immigration emerges as key 2024 election wedge issue for Trump, vulnerability for Biden

The U.S. Supreme Court, by a vote of 5-4 on Monday, cleared the way for federal agents to remove the wire, which administration officials and immigration advocates had called dangerous and inhumane.

“On Tuesday, DHS sent Texas a letter outlining the access Border Patrol needs in Shelby Park to do their jobs, and demanding Texas confirm this access will be honored," a White House spokesperson told ABC News. "As we have said many times before, Governor Abbott should stop his extreme political stunts and stop making it harder and more dangerous for Border Patrol to do their jobs.”

The Department of Homeland Security argues the state's activities interfered with clear federal supremacy in setting border enforcement policy.

The letter to Texas, obtained by ABC News, demands Texas "remove" any obstructions to Shelby Park in Eagle Pass.

Texas law enforcement, on Abbott's order, has blocked Customs and Border Protection's physical access to Shelby Park.

The Supreme Court on Monday vacated a lower court injunction prohibiting DHS from cutting the wire, "and restored the Department’s right to cut and move the concertina wire placed by Texas in order to perform their statutory duties," DHS General Counsel Jonathan Meyer wrote to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

PHOTO: Concertina wire, placed by the Texas National Guard, is set up around the perimeter of a pit previously used to hold migrants in Shelby Park, at the U.S.-Mexico border in Eagle Pass, TX Jan. 16, 2024. (Kaylee Greenlee Beal/Reuters)
PHOTO: Concertina wire, placed by the Texas National Guard, is set up around the perimeter of a pit previously used to hold migrants in Shelby Park, at the U.S.-Mexico border in Eagle Pass, TX Jan. 16, 2024. (Kaylee Greenlee Beal/Reuters)

MORE: DHS threatens to take 'appropriate action' against Texas over border access

DHS believes that Shelby Park is not open to the public, as Texas has claimed it is. Meyer says the department has acquired permanent real estate interests in and around Eagle Pass in 2008 to support the construction and maintenance of border barriers in and around the Shelby Park area.

"We demand that you immediately remove any and all obstructions on it, which include the access points into Shelby Park near the intersections of Ryan and Main Streets and Ryan and Rio Grande Streets, as well as the access points on Ford Street and the two access points on the end of Ryan Street," Meyer writes.

Meyer outlined the areas for which DHS requested access that it says are being blocked by Texas saying they need access to them and need Texas to confirm they'll grant access to the Park by Jan. 26.

Abbott kept up the fight Thursday.

"The president of the United States is not fulfilling his duty to enforce the laws passed by Congress that deny illegal entry into the United States," Abbott said on Fox News.

But he did not answer if he would physically prevent federal officers from accessing Shelby Park.

On Thursday, House Speaker Mike Johnson backed his fellow Republican in his escalating battle with the White House.

"I stand with Governor Abbott. The House will do everything in its power to back him up," Johnson posted on X.

The Supreme Court justices did not elaborate on their order but it was seen as meaning federal border agents could resume full control of the contested border area while litigation continues.

Despite that, Texas DPS spokesperson Lt. Chris Olivarez posted video of Texas National Guard reinforcing some of the barriers along the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass on Thursday.

Texas DPS and the Texas Military Department "will continue to hold the line," he said.

Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro, who represents San Antonio, said in a post on X that Abbott is "using the Texas National Guard to obstruct and create chaos at the border."

"If Abbott is defying yesterday's Supreme Court ruling, @POTUS needs to establish sole federal control of the Texas National Guard now," he said.

John Cohen, who served as the former acting undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, said Abbott's interpretation is not accurate.

"An invasion referring to a mass migratory movement as an invasion is consistent with white supremacist ideological beliefs," Cohen, an ABC News contributor, said.

"We are we certainly are in a period of humanitarian crisis, and we certainly are dealing with a dramatic increase in people who are fleeing poverty, violence, public health issues, and seeking the protection and the safety of the United States under international agreements and federal law," he said.

Dhs Letter 22324 by ABC News Politics on Scribd

Pitched border battle pits Texas' 'self-defense' claim against federal government originally appeared on abcnews.go.com