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Texas and federal officials are struggling to determine who will tackle the border crisis


The weekend drowning deaths of three Mexican migrants - a woman and two children - on the border near Eagle Pass, Texas, have further raised tensions between Texas' governor and the Biden administration. Republican Greg Abbott and the White House sharply disagree over who has jurisdiction at the border and how to best address the migrant crisis. The administration has condemned Abbott's aggressive border tactics aimed at stopping illegal crossings, saying that these measures put migrants at risk.

Joining us now for the latest is Texas Public Radio's David Martin Davies. Hi, David.


SUMMERS: So David, the Biden administration gave Texas until the end of today to stop blocking access by the U.S. Border Patrol to a state-controlled city park on the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass. What can you tell us about that?

DAVIES: Well, this is a - close to where the Mexican woman and the two children drowned. Shelby Park is a 50-acre public area that fronts the Rio Grande. Last summer, the state's Operation Lone Star took it over for its command center, but it was sharing it with the Border Patrol. Abbott blamed President Biden and the Border Patrol for the most recent super surge in crossings there, and he ordered the Texas National Guard to keep the Border Patrol out of the park. And this is odd because this is their jurisdiction. One of the complaints that the state has had about the Border Patrol is that it is giving humanitarian aid to the migrants, freeing them from trapped in the razor wire, giving them first aid, water and things like that. And the White House calls the Texas governor's policies cruel, dangerous and inhumane.

SUMMERS: And as we mentioned, the deadline to allow access was today, and Texas has said it will not comply with the White House's request. So what happens from here?

DAVIES: Well, yeah, today, this afternoon, the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, replied to the Biden administration, saying they're not going to back down, and said Texas will not, quote, "surrender to Biden's open-border policies." So they're not going to back down, and the White House is likely to file a lawsuit.

SUMMERS: I mean, this is a story that we've been following closely. This would not be the first lawsuit against the state of Texas by the Biden administration over border policies in practice, right?

DAVIES: Yeah, that's right. This looks like, though, the legal fight and the political fight that Abbott really wants. When you look at all the border issues the White House and Abbott are clashing on - those floating buoy barriers, the razor wire, the new Texas show-me-your-papers law that makes it across - makes crossing the border a state crime - these are all in the courts. And just today, the entire Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear the appeal on removing the Texas buoys from the Rio Grande. So this is about Abbott challenging Biden over who controls the border and weakening federal government authority there.

SUMMERS: David, what comes next with the story?

DAVIES: Well, Abbott insists that Texas has the right to control the border because he says Biden is willfully not securing the border. And there's no evidence of that. And Abbott says - and these are his words - that Texas has the legal authority to control ingress and egress to any geographic location in the state of Texas, and he says that includes the park in Eagle Pass. Abbott also says recently that the only thing keeping Operation Lone Star from shooting migrants as they cross into Texas is the fact that the Biden administration would charge them with murder. Now, he later tried to backtrack on that, but Abbott is taking an extreme hard line when it comes to so-called border security, and this will continue to be a hot political issue the closer we get to November.

SUMMERS: David Martin Davies of Texas Public Radio reporting in San Antonio. Thank you.

DAVIES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Martin Davies
David Martin Davies is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience covering Texas, the border and Mexico.
Juana Summers
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
Alejandra Marquez Janse
Alejandra Marquez Janse is a producer for NPR's evening news program All Things Considered. She was part of a team that traveled to Uvalde, Texas, months after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary to cover its impact on the community. She also helped script and produce NPR's first bilingual special coverage of the State of the Union – broadcast in Spanish and English.