The Justice Department on Friday asked the Supreme Court to order Texas to stop blocking Border Patrol agents from a portion of the U.S.-Mexico border where large numbers of migrants have crossed in recent months, setting up another showdown between Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and the Biden administration over immigration enforcement.
The request comes after Texas put up fencing to take control of a nearly 50-acre (20-hectare) public park in Eagle Pass, which was a crossing point for thousands of migrants entering from Mexico last year.
“Because Border Patrol can no longer access or view this stretch of the border, Texas has effectively prevented Border Patrol from monitoring the border," the Justice Department wrote in a filing.
Abbott told reporters Friday that Texas has the authority to control access to any geographic location in the state.
“That authority is being asserted,” Abbott said.
The changes happened Wednesday when the Department of Public Safety informed the Eagle Pass government that the state would be closing public access to the park. The move was an escalation from the governor's border enforcement efforts known as Operation Lone Star.
Concern grew when Border Patrol noted it, too, lost access to the park, which has a boat ramp that agents use to launch their boats into the Rio Grande. The area also served as a staging area where federal officers would take migrants into custody and process them. The Border Patrol's access to the site for surveillance was similarly curtailed.
The state and federal government are involved in other legal disputes over actions Texas has taken since 2023, including the use of buoys in the middle of the international river, the installment of razor wire, and an upcoming law that will allow police to arrest migrants.
The state's policies have been called into question not only by outside critics but internally when a trooper's account over denying water and urgent medical care made headlines in July.