Texas wins lawsuit over federal border wall construction, court rules

Texas secured a victory in the initial stage of a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s decision to halt border wall construction. The case, which combined two separate lawsuits, was ruled in favor of Texas by a U.S. District Court.

In 2020 and 2021, the construction of a barrier system along the southwest border was allocated approximately $1.4 billion by Congress. However, on his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued an order to halt the construction. As a result, taxpayers incurred an initial cost of $6 million, followed by a daily expense of $3 million for the border wall not being built. The materials that had already been paid for to construct the wall were left to rust on the ground.

In October 2021, the president and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas were sued by Missouri and Texas. The purpose of the lawsuit was to request a court order for the completion of border wall construction. Another party that filed a lawsuit was former Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush. The GLO happens to own more than 500,000 acres of land near the U.S.-Mexico border, with an estimated 31 linear miles along the Rio Grande. It is worth noting that when Governor Greg Abbott initiated the construction of Texas’ own border wall, the initial site chosen was on GLO land.

Mayorkas, in his response to the lawsuits, has consistently maintained that he possesses the authority to exercise “discretion” in modifying or enacting policies as he deems necessary. In this particular instance, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contended that, despite the explicit language of the statute mandating the utilization of funds for border wall construction and barriers, Mayorkas retained the discretion to determine the allocation of these funds.

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As the cases progressed, Mayorkas took steps to reallocate border wall funding towards environmental projects and maintenance repairs.

U.S. District Court Judge Drew Tipton, presiding over the Southern District of Texas McAllen Division, made a significant ruling on Friday. In the consolidated cases, he issued a preliminary injunction against the administration. This injunction restricts the administration from redirecting funds that are legally obligated to be used for border wall construction.

Attorney General Ken Paxton criticized President Biden’s actions, stating that he acted inappropriately by refusing to utilize the funds allocated by Congress for border wall construction and even attempting to redirect those funds. Paxton emphasized that these actions reflect Biden’s eagerness for open borders, regardless of the consequences. However, Texas has emerged victorious in this matter.

Texas Land Commissioner Dawn Buckingham, M.D., hailed the ruling as a major triumph for Texas in its ongoing efforts to enhance border security and hold the White House accountable to the principles of the Rule of Law.

The Biden administration has adopted inconsistent strategies when it comes to border wall construction and barriers. Initially, their approach involved utilizing the Endangered Species Act to impede the construction of the border wall. As part of this initiative, they proposed designating 691 acres in Starr and Zapata, which are two Texas border counties, as critical habitat for the endangered prostrate milkweed wildflower in 2022. In the following year, they further expanded their efforts to safeguard freshwater river mussels in three Texas border counties.

In October 2023, Mayorkas made a surprising decision to reverse course. He announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be waiving 26 federal laws in order to resume construction on a section of the border wall in the Rio Grande Valley. This was a significant departure from their previous stance of halting construction in that area over two years ago.

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According to a six-page filing with the Federal Register in October 2023, Mayorkas emphasized the urgent requirement for the construction of physical barriers and roads near the United States border to curb unlawful entries into the country. He cited relevant sections of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to support his statement.

According to the Federal Register filing, Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector had apprehended over 245,000 foreign nationals illegally entering the region between ports of entry during the current fiscal year until early August. This represents a record-breaking number of apprehensions.

Alejandro Mayorkas announced that he has made the decision, in accordance with the law, to waive specific laws, regulations, and legal requirements. This action is necessary to ensure the swift construction of barriers and roads near the international land border in Starr County, Texas. Mayorkas is committed to expediting this process for the benefit of border security.

The federal government and Texas have been engaged in two lawsuits concerning the use of concertina wire and marine barriers in Eagle Pass. The Supreme Court intervened in the first lawsuit, while the second case is currently being appealed at the Fifth Circuit.

In a 57-page ruling on Friday, Judge Tipton challenged Mayorkas’ stance on discretion, a position that has also been challenged by federal judges in cases filed in other states such as Florida.

Tipton stated that the Court disagrees on the matter of discretion. According to Tipton, it is not typically within the Executive Branch’s purview to determine whether they must adhere to federal laws. Consequently, the spending decisions of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) go against the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).

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According to the order, the federal government is not allowed to use funds for purposes such as mitigation and remediation efforts, repairing existing barriers, or installing system attributes at existing sites. The funds can only be used for the construction of physical barriers, such as additional walls, fencing, and buoys.

According to the order, the Biden administration has a week to appeal to the Fifth Circuit.

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