Biden administration asks Supreme Court to intervene in its dispute with Texas over border land

McAllen, TEXAS (AP) — The drowning deaths of three migrants has brought new urgency to an extraordinary showdown between the Biden administration and Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who has seized a city park in a major corridor for illegal crossings and denied entry to Border Patrol agents.

The Department of Justice filed a new request late Monday with the Supreme Court to grant federal agents access to a portion of the border along the Rio Grande that is occupied by the Texas National Guard and the Texas Military Department. The request followed the drownings of a young Mexican mother and her two children who tried to enter the U.S. through the river near Shelby Park at Eagle Pass, Texas.

The state fenced off Shelby Park last week and has been denying the public and federal agents access to the city-owned land as part of Abbott’s aggressive actions to stop illegal crossings. The drownings occurred hours after President Joe Biden’s administration first asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

Abbott posted on social media on Monday that he is using every tool possible to stop illegal immigration.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Texas Military Department have provided different timelines about the drownings since they were made public Saturday by a South Texas congressman.

According to the Department of Justice’s filing Monday, the deaths occurred at 8 p.m Friday, before U.S. federal agents were notified by Mexican counterparts at 9 p.m. Border Patrol agents were also made aware of two other migrants in the same area who were in distress, the filing said.

U.S. agents approached the closed gate at the park’s entrance and informed the Texas National Guard of the situation, the filing said. The were told Texas was denying them access to the 50-acre (20-hectare) park “even in emergency situations.”

The filing was made before the Supreme Court in a lawsuit that the Biden administration filed over razor wire fencing installed by Texas. An appellate court has said federal agents can cut the razor wire only during emergency situations.

“Even when there is an ongoing emergency of the type that the court of appeals expressly excluded from the injunction, Texas stands in the way of Border Patrol patrolling the border, identifying and reaching any migrants in distress, securing those migrants, and even accessing any wire that it may need to cut or move to fulfill its responsibilities,” the Justice Department wrote in the most recent filing.

The federal government is asking the Supreme Court to vacate the whole injunction barring Border Patrol agents from cutting or moving Texas’ razor wire. The Justice Department argues that the state is using that decision to cut off access to more land than just the riverbanks.

Abbott has said he is taking action because President Joe Biden is not doing enough to control the U.S.-Mexico border.

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