The fight over what US immigration policy should look like

Commentator He Qinglian notes that Operation Lone Star launched by Texas governor Greg Abbott — who has refused to remove the wire fence at the Mexico border — is a signal to the Biden administration and also the Supreme Court about what the people truly desire in terms of immigration policy.
Migrants look for a way past concertina wire after crossing the US-Mexico border through the Rio Grande River into El Paso, Texas, seen from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, on 8 February 2024. (Justin Hamel/Bloomberg)
Migrants look for a way past concertina wire after crossing the US-Mexico border through the Rio Grande River into El Paso, Texas, seen from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, on 8 February 2024. (Justin Hamel/Bloomberg)

The world is now looking at Texas — the Lone Star State — and its impact on the direction of the Biden-Harris administration.

At 1pm on 25 January, the Biden government ordered Texas to pull out the Texas National Guard within 24 hours from the US-Mexico borders, and allow Border Patrol agents to enter and remove the razor wire fencing that Texas officials placed along part of the Republican-governed state's border with Mexico to deter illegal border crossings.

The Texas governor then initiated Operation Lone Star to counter Biden’s orders, while governors from 25 states signed a joint statement backing Texas, criticising the Biden administration for going against the constitution.

Moments before the 24-hour deadline, the Biden-Harris administration hastily announced "economic sanctions" against Texas, halting new permits for the export of liquid natural gas (LNG), and has stayed silent since.

Why are the Democrats so welcoming of illegal immigrants? There is but one reason — to build up their vote base... 

Biden’s attempt to build Democratic vote base?

This conflict rose from the Biden administration’s policy to open borders, inviting illegal immigrants to enter the US. In the last three years, US official statistics show that the number of illegal immigrants in the US hit 14.7 million, and Texas — which shares borders with Mexico — is the first to feel the impact of these illegal immigrants.

Under normal circumstances, there are roughly 5,000 illegal immigrants coming into Texas each day, for an apparent total of 6 million illegal immigrants over three years, which is a huge burden on Texas with its total population of just 30 million.

Texas governor Greg Abbott has had to send over 100,000 immigrants to sanctuary cities like New York, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, and Biden’s home state Delaware, which has led to complaints by Democrats, who profess to welcome illegal immigrants.

With no way out, in the summer of 2023, Abbot decided to set up a 48-kilometre long wire fence along the Rio Grande near the small town of Eagle Pass, and installed floating barriers in the river to prevent boats ferrying illegal immigrants from approaching.

On 26 July 2023, Biden had the US Justice Department issue a 25-page long document to get Texas to remove the floating barriers and the concertina wire, on grounds that these would cause “irreparable harm” to the US government’s foreign relations, public safety and navigation.

On grounds that federal immigration law supersedes Texas law, the Biden administration ordered the Border Patrol, a federal agency, to cut the wires. Texas ignored the ban and kept the wire up, going toe to toe with the Biden administration.  

Why are the Democrats so welcoming of illegal immigrants? There is but one reason — to build up their vote base, as seen from the way these illegal immigrants cry out “thank Biden” after they safely enter the US. 

Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, during a news conference at Shelby Park along the Rio Grande River in Eagle Pass, Texas, US, on 8 February 2024. (Sergio Flores/Bloomberg)
Greg Abbott, governor of Texas, during a news conference at Shelby Park along the Rio Grande River in Eagle Pass, Texas, US, on 8 February 2024. (Sergio Flores/Bloomberg)

In October 2023, Texas sued the Biden administration via the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, accusing the federal government of destroying part of the wire fence that Texas had set up to prevent illegal border crossing, and at the same time hindering efforts by Texas to ensure border safety.

In late December, the Fifth Circuit issued a ruling blocking the federal government from “cutting, destroying or otherwise damaging Texas’s concertina wire that had been strategically positioned” around Eagle Pass. On 2 January 2024, the Biden administration’s Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to intervene in their legal dispute with Texas. 

Abbot then released a statement that Biden had violated Article IV Section IV, which states that the federal government “shall protect each [State] against invasion”...

Protecting against invasion

On 22 January, the US Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote that temporarily permitted federal officials to remove the wire set around the border by Texas. However, some legal experts say the Supreme Court’s ruling was very wrong.

First, the ruling only took into consideration Article VI of the US constitution, which stipulated that federal laws “shall be the supreme law of the land” without considering Articles I, II and IV, which give each state the right to protect itself in the event of an invasion and domestic violence.

Second, the Supreme Court did not order Texas to cease setting up concertina wire, and neither the five justices who voted in support of the federal government nor the four who voted against it have given any explanation as to the ruling. 

On 25 January, Biden renewed an order for Texas to allow access to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Border Patrol officers within 24 hours. Abbot then released a statement that Biden had violated Article IV Section IV, which states that the federal government “shall protect each [State] against invasion”, claiming that Biden failed to fulfil the duty of protecting each state from invasion in accordance with the constitution, triggering Article I Section 10 Clause 3, which says that if a state is under invasion, it reserves the right to self-defence, and has the authority to take action under such circumstances without the consent of Congress or the government. Abbot then ordered the Texas National Guard, the Texas Department of Public Safety and other institutions to exercise their right to self-defence against invasion.  

Operation Lone Star not only unified the Texan political circle — lieutenant-governor Dan Patrick, Senator Cruz, former President Donald Trump and US House Speaker Mike Johnson all expressed support — it also garnered swift support from 25 states. Governors of the 25 states issued a joint statement in support of Abbot and “Texas’ constitutional right to self-defense”, with at least ten states declaring that they would send National Guard members to aid Texas.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy (a member of the Kennedy clan) also declared support for Texas. A convoy of more than 1,000 trucks headed to Texas to help protect the border, and opinions on social media were one-sidedly in favour of Operation Lone Star. 

Some flurried Democratic senators quickly called on the White House to federalise the Texas National Guard, but there is almost no legal basis for this. 

Members of the Texas National Guard before a news conference at Shelby Park along the Rio Grande River in Eagle Pass, Texas, US, on 8 February 2024. (Sergio Flores/Bloomberg)
Members of the Texas National Guard before a news conference at Shelby Park along the Rio Grande River in Eagle Pass, Texas, US, on 8 February 2024. (Sergio Flores/Bloomberg)

An isolated Biden could only declare economic sanctions against Texas at the eleventh hour before the deadline was up as a way out, with the federal government halting new permits for the export of LNG, a key economic pillar for Texas along with petroleum.

In response, Abbot said that Biden’s decision to freeze LNG exports threatened Texas’ and America’s economy.

... results showed that 35% of the respondents felt that immigration was most important, with inflation second at 32%, economy and jobs third at 25% and crime and drugs fourth at 16%.

Strong public will 

Many articles have touched on the uniqueness of Texas, which was a nation itself for nearly ten years after it won independence from Mexico; and which officially became the 28th state of the US on 29 December 1845, after multiple failed attempts to be annexed by the US. 

Texas has its own military, which currently includes an infantry division, two brigade units, an airlift wing, seven independent groups and a large amount of support staff and reserve forces. Texas’ GDP is US$2.5 trillion, is the eighth-largest economy globally, and is the world’s third largest oil producer behind Russia and Saudi Arabia. 

However, it is not its economic strength that has given Texas confidence in its clash with the federal government over the issue of illegal immigrants. In an interview with Fox News, Patrick stated that “the biggest mistake the Biden administration could make would be confronting law enforcement or our military, our National Guard at our border, at this park, when we are actually doing the job that the American people want.” This is not an exaggeration, but a fact.

On 18 January, the Harvard-Harris Poll showed that when asked “what would you say are the most important issues facing the country today?” results showed that 35% of the respondents felt that immigration was most important, with inflation second at 32%, economy and jobs third at 25% and crime and drugs fourth at 16%. With regard to overseas wars which the Biden administration is preoccupied with, only the Israel-Hamas conflict was 15th on the list, with 7% of respondents saying it was of interest.    

An aerial image shows migrants waiting along the border wall to surrender to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) border patrol agents for immigration and asylum claim processing after crossing the Rio Grande River into the US, on the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, on 11 May 2023. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP)
An aerial image shows migrants waiting along the border wall to surrender to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) border patrol agents for immigration and asylum claim processing after crossing the Rio Grande River into the US, on the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, on 11 May 2023. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP)

What is the key political signal of Operation Lone Star? Of course not the start of a civil war; with the upcoming elections, rather than being like the American Civil War, the situation is more similar to the Mutual Defence Pact of the Southeastern Provinces during the late Qing dynasty, when the local governors felt that the Qing imperial court was in chaos. They refused to stand with the central government and decided to do their own thing to protect their borders and people.

Operation Lone Star is sending out strong messages to the Biden administration to not go against the will of the people, to the leftwing camp to return to constitutionalism and have a clean election, and to the Supreme Court to maintain its authority and adhere to constitutional law. 

This article was first published in Lianhe Zaobao as “得州孤星行动释放的政治信号”.

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