A National Guard soldier stands guard on the banks of the Rio Grande river at Shelby Park on January 12, 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
“The feds are staging a civil war, and Texas should stand their ground.” That’s not a post by an anonymous user on a fringe messageboard. That was a post on X by Rep. Clay Higgins, a GOP congressman from Louisiana, who was responding to the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Biden Administration—and not Texas—has jurisdiction over border enforcement. Higgins’ post was shared widely across extremist online ecosystems, who lapped up the incendiary language. “Man if that shit pops off it’ll be open season on feds,” one person on far-right forum Patriots.win said in response. “It’s already started. One side is fighting. The other isn't,” remarked another.
Last October, Border Patrol agents started cutting through the miles of razor wire that Texas officials had erected along the border without the permission of the federal government, triggering a legal battle between the Biden Administration and the Lone Star State that ended up at the Supreme Court. This month, Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, which sits on a 50-acre stretch of the Rio Grande and is a popular point for unauthorized crossings, became a lighting rod for that fight and a staging area for Gov. Greg Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star.” The Texas National Guard seized control of the park and surrounded it with razor wire, which Border Patrol said limited their surveillance abilities and their access to a boat ramp that agents use to patrol that stretch of the river.Following the takeover, the DOJ filed a brief to the Supreme Court, saying that Border Patrol could no longer access or view that stretch of the border. “Texas has effectively prevented Border Patrol from monitoring the border to determine whether a migrant requires the emergency aid that the Court of Appeals expressly excepted,” the DOJ wrote. Last week, three migrants—a woman and her children—drowned in the Rio Grande just near Shelby Park. Border Patrol claimed that the Texas National Guard prevented them from saving them, which Texas has denied.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4—including two conservative appointees who sided with liberal justices—that Border Patrol agents are entitled to cut down the razor wire. Hardline anti-immigration rhetoric, including explicit references to the racist Great Replacement conspiracy theory, has loomed large over the GOP 2024 campaign trail amid the escalating standoff between Texas and the federal government over the border. Migrants coming over the southern border have been cast as “invaders” and falsely characterized as predominantly “military-aged males.” Now, the Supreme Court’s decision is acting as kerosene in an already inflamed political environment. Far-right pundits and lawmakers say the ruling is proof that the federal system is fundamentally broken and that Texas should continue to assert authority on the border, no matter the consequences. On Tuesday, Texas officials signaled that they plan to do just that. Spokesperson for Texas’ Department of Public Safety Lt. Chris Olivarez said in a post on X that the state will “maintain its current posture in deterring illegal border crossings by utilizing effective border security measures,” which he said includes razor wire. “#Texas will continue to hold the line,” he added.
“This is not over,” Gov. Greg Abbott posted. “Texas’ razor wire is an effective deterrent to the illegal crossings Biden encourages.” “This fight is not over, and I look forward to defending our state’s sovereignty,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote on X.Abbott and other GOP lawmakers and commentators claim that Texas is constitutionally entitled to exercise authority under Article IV, Section 4, which they say endows states with special powers to “protect each of them against invasion.” Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested on X that “everyone in power,” including the White House, “hedge fund managers,” and the Supreme Court, are part of a plan to “destroy the country by allowing it to be invaded,” and thinks that ordinary Texans need to join the fight. “That leaves the population to defend itself,” Carlson wrote. “Where are the men of Texas? Why aren’t they protecting their state and their nation?”“To the Republic of Texas & my brothers in the trenches holding off an invasion, we see you kings,” one Proud Boy chapter wrote on Telegram. “We’ve all been betrayed and sold out by an illegal government that’s sole mission is [to] destroy our traditions, freedoms and way of life. We refuse to concede our nation to the communists. America is counting on you to hold the line.”Verified right-wing accounts on X made similar calls to arms. “Texas should secede,” wrote Gunther Eagleman, who describes himself as an “America First political commentator. “Fuck the Feds.” “Fuck the Supreme Court,” wrote “SteveLovesAmmo” to his 90,000 followers. “Buy guns and ammo. Your government isn’t coming to save you.”There’s also a new meme circulating in conservative and anti-government online circles, showing a row of razor wire, the Texas lone star, and the words “come and cut it.”