▶ Watch Video: Hundreds of migrants cross razor wire into Texas

The Supreme Court on Monday allowed federal immigration agents to remove the razor wire that Texas state officials have set up along some sections of the U.S.-Mexico border to try to discourage migrants from crossing into the country unlawfully.

A lower court ruling last year had barred the federal government from removing the razor wire that National Guard soldiers deployed by Gov. Greg Abbott assembled on the banks of the Rio Grande, near the Texas border town of Eagle Pass, a busy sector for illegal crossings.

But in a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court suspended that lower court ruling at the request of the Biden administration, which has argued the razor wire obstructs Border Patrol’s ability to process migrants who are already on American soil and to help those who may be in distress.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett sided with the court’s three liberals — Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson — in voting to lift the lower court’s injunction. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh would have allowed it to remain in place.

Texas’ razor wire

Federal law requires Border Patrol to process migrants who enter the U.S. illegally to determine whether they should be deported, transferred to another federal agency, sent to a long-term immigration detention center or released pending a review of their asylum claims. Texas state officials don’t have the legal authority to make these determinations.

While the Biden administration has argued the razor wire impedes Border Patrol operations, Texas has said it deters migrants from swimming across the Rio Grande to enter the country illegally. Still, groups of migrants routinely crawl underneath the wire to get into the U.S., often cutting themselves in the process.

The legal fights between Texas and the Biden administration over U.S. border policy escalated this month after the state used National Guard soldiers to take control of a public park in Eagle Pass that the Border Patrol had been using to hold and inspect migrants. Texas had also set up razor wire in this area, which it has blocked federal agents from accessing to process migrants.

On Wednesday, Texas defied a demand from the Department of Homeland Security to stop blocking Border Patrol agents from the park, rejecting the Biden administration’s argument that the action violated the Constitution. The DHS had promised to refer the matter to the Justice Department for a potential legal action against Texas.

The Justice Department last week alerted the Supreme Court of Texas’s seizure of the Eagle Pass park, citing it as an example of the state preventing Border Patrol agents from doing their jobs.

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