White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, when pressed Tuesday about getting the go-ahead from the Supreme Court to take down razor wire that Texas had erected along the U.S.-Mexico border, argued that federal agents need “access” to process migrants.
During the daily press briefing, Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy challenged Kirby, “Why are you guys making it easier for people to enter the country illegally?”
“I don’t believe we are. Why do you think we are?” Kirby responded. Doocy explained, “Well, you guys sued to cut razor wire that was put in place by Texas officials.”
Interjecting, Kirby said, “So that the Border Patrol could actually do their jobs, but keep going.”
The exhange comes in reference to the divided Supreme Court on Monday allowing, for now, Border Patrol agents to resume cutting razor wire that Texas installed along a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border that is at the center of an escalating standoff between the Biden administration and the state over immigration enforcement.
The 5-4 vote clears the way for Border Patrol agents to cut or clear out concertina wire that Texas has put along the banks of the Rio Grande to deter migrants from entering the U.S. illegally. The Justice Department argues that some migrants have been injured by the sharp wire and has argued the barrier impedes the U.S. government’s ability to patrol the border, including coming to the aid of migrants in need of help. None of the justices provided any explanation for their vote in the one-page order, while the lawsuit over the wire continues.
SUPREME COURT SIDES WITH BIDEN IN TEXAS BORDER RAZOR WIRE CASE; BORDER PATROL UNION BLASTS DECISION
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had authorized the wire, one of a series of measures the three-term Republican has taken on the border in the name of curbing illegal crossings from Mexico. His spokesman said the absence of razor wire and other deterrents encourages migrants to risk unsafe crossings and makes the job of Texas border personnel more difficult.
“Well, you won in court. So now what? The Border Patrol union president is saying the Supreme Court’s decision is going to undoubtedly more illegal immigration. Do you guys know better than the Border Patrol union?” Doocy challenged Kirby on Tuesday.
“The Border Patrol needed access, and that’s why we sued to get rid of that razor wire so that they could do their jobs,” Kirby countered. “And you know what would also help them do their jobs, Peter? More Border Patrol agents. There’s an idea. And if you go back to the supplemental request that we put in, there’s money in there for some 1,300 additional Border Patrol agents. We want to help them do their jobs. We want to give them more resources. And the answer we keep getting back from House Republicans is no, no, no.”
Asked if razor wire works to deter border crossings, Kirby retorted, “Does razor wire work for what? Does it work for the Border Patrol to allow them to have the access they need to be able to better process people that are trying to get across the border? I don’t think so. And that’s why we asked for it to be removed.”
Doocy referred to how, just last month, U.S. border officials detected a record high of some 300,000 migrants stopped from entering the country illegally. Kirby responded by referring to Biden’s supplemental package, as well as offering praise to the Mexican government.
“Please, look at the stuff we’ve put forward. The immigration reform legislation that the president put forward on day one, the work we’re doing in the region. Just last week, we had Mexican officials here to talk about how together we have and will continue to try to stem the flow of migrants,” Kirby said. “You mentioned the numbers. No question. There’s a lot of people trying to make that journey. But it’s not just to the United States, it’s to other countries in the world. In the region, we’re seeing historic movement now, not since World War II have we seen this many people on the move in this hemisphere. And the Mexicans are really stepping up and trying to do more, more on their southern border to keep that flow going north lower.”
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“And we have seen in recent weeks some success at that,” Kirby continued. “The idea that we don’t have a plan or strategy or not taking this seriously is just not borne out by the facts. And, you know, again… if the folks in the House Republicans are serious about border security and they claim they are, then they should act on the supplemental request. And, you know, let’s negotiate this in good faith. The president has said he’s willing to make compromises. He’s willing to negotiate in good faith…. So let’s have that discussion.”
The concertina wire stretches for roughly 30 miles near the border city of Eagle Pass, where earlier this month the Texas Military Department seized control of a city-owned park and began denying access to Border Patrol agents. Eagle Park has become one of the busiest spots on the southern border for migrants illegally crossing from Mexico.
Abbott has said Texas won’t allow Border Patrol agents into Shelby Park anymore, having expressed frustration over what he says are migrants illegally entering through Eagle Pass and then federal agents loading them onto buses. Abbott also has authorized installing floating barriers in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass and allowed troopers to arrest and jail thousands of migrants on trespassing charges. The administration also is challenging those actions in federal court.
In court papers, the Biden administration said the wire impedes Border Patrol agents from reaching migrants as they cross the river and that, in any case, federal immigration law trumps Texas’ own efforts to stem the flow of migrants into the country.
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Texas officials have argued that federal agents cut the wire to help groups crossing illegally through the river before taking them in for processing.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor sided with the administration. Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas voted with Texas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.