Twenty-five Republican governors have lent their support to GOP Gov. Greg Abbott as he doubles down on his defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court order to allow the federal government to remove the razor wire that the state had put up along a stretch of the United States-Mexico border with Mexico at Eagle Pass.
Abbott first posted on social media on Tuesday that the Texas National Guard would “continue to hold the line” at Eagle Pass. Then, in a statement released Wednesday, Abbott claimed that the Biden administration had “broken the compact” between the states and federal government by, in Abbott’s view, failing to enforce immigration laws. He has won the support of at least 25 governors for declaring immigration an “invasion” and invoking “Texas’ constitutional authority to defend and protect itself.”
In a column published in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday, Will Bunch observed that some online commenters had likened the potential standoff at Eagle Pass to the one at Fort Sumter, North Carolina, that triggered the Civil War. However, he thought another historical comparison had merit.
“Abbott’s reckless, cruelty-is-the-point policies and his defiant stand are also posing the greatest threat to federal authority since the South’s ‘massive resistance’ in the 1950s and ’60s to the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Ed ruling that mandated school integration,” Bunch wrote.
In his statement, Abbott referenced founding fathers James Madison and Alexander Hamilton and based his argument on the U.S. Constitution. He pointed to Article IV, Section 4, which promises federal protection against “invasion” and Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3, which acknowledges a state’s “sovereign interest” in protecting its borders. He wrote:
The failure of the Biden administration to fulfill the duties imposed by Article IV, § 4 has triggered Article I, § 10, Clause 3, which reserves to this state the right of self-defense. For these reasons, I have already declared an invasion under Article I, § 10, Clause 3 to invoke Texas’ constitutional authority to defend and protect itself. That authority is the supreme law of the land and supersedes any federal statutes to the contrary. The Texas National Guard, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and other Texas personnel are acting on that authority, as well as state law, to secure the Texas border.
After Abbott posted his statement on social media, several GOP governors reshared it with messages of support.
“Virginia stands with Texas,” wrote Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Wednesday, arguing that “the Biden administration has turned every state into a border state.”
Virginia stands with Texas. @GregAbbott_TX is doing the job Joe Biden and his border czar refuse to do to secure our border.— Glenn Youngkin (@GlennYoungkin) January 25, 2024
The Biden administration has turned every state into a border state. We must stop the flow of fentanyl, save lives, and secure our southern border. https://t.co/XaPu2RqJBP
This was a sentiment echoed by Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon on Thursday.
“Wyoming stands in solidarity with Gov. Abbott and the state of Texas in utilizing every tool and strategy to secure the border and protect American citizens,” Gordon said. “We are all border states now.”
Wyoming stands in solidarity with Governor Abbott and the State of Texas in utilizing every tool and strategy to secure the border and protect American citizens. We are all border states now. pic.twitter.com/1Y6RZ4XFUO— Governor Mark Gordon (@GovernorGordon) January 25, 2024
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem wrote on Wednesday that Abbott was “exactly right to invoke Texas’ constitutional authority to defend itself.” In a later post published Thursday, she affirmed her support for Abbott and called the border a “war zone.”
Our Southern Border is a warzone.— Kristi Noem (@KristiNoem) January 25, 2024
When I visited the border over the summer, I saw just how much Joe Biden has deteriorated our national security.
I will continue to support @GregAbbott_TX in his fight to secure our Southern Border. pic.twitter.com/93JF5D9g0P
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote on Thursday that if President Joe Biden “won’t defend us, states will have to defend themselves. Arkansas stands with Texas.”
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said that Iowa had sent National Guard members to the Texas border in the past.
“When the federal government fails, states step in,” Reynolds said, echoing Abbott’s argument.
Reynolds and 24 other GOP governors — every Republican except Vermont’s Phil Scott — also released a formal statement Thursday backing Abbott’s constitutional argument.
“Because the Biden administration has abdicated its constitutional compact duties to the states, Texas has every legal justification to protect the sovereignty of our states and our nation,” the governors wrote.
In his column, Bunch pointed out what is at stake in this disagreement, arguing that the comparison to Fort Sumter might be “a little unfair”:
No one was actually killed during the bombardment of the federal fort off of Charleston by rebel forces of the newly formed Confederacy. But four migrants trying to reach U.S. soil at or near the disputed park in Eagle Pass, Texas, have drowned under circumstances that are arguably linked to the dispute between the militaristic approach of the Texas National Guard and the comparatively humane, locked-out agents of President Joe Biden’s administration.
starting civil war ii over a states right right to drown children in a river with razor wire https://t.co/Zn6XneYFtj— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) January 25, 2024
Bunch wrote that Biden could either back down or follow the example of former President Dwight Eisenhower, who federalized the Arkansas National Guard in order to end a standoff over the integration of Little Rock Central High School. He continued:
It won’t be an easy decision. The possibility for a Fort Sumter-style gunpowder spark exists in this crazy, mixed-up nation. If Biden does successfully reassert control of Eagle Pass, the same brand of yahoo who screamed “states’ rights” in the 1950s and ’60s to justify Jim Crow racial apartheid will yell that the American dictator is Biden, not [former President Donald] Trump. And if the 45th president does return as 47th, he would cite Biden’s justified actions as an excuse for wildly unconstitutional uses of the Insurrection Act to crush political dissent with tanks and occupy cities run by Democrats.
If Biden is the one who backs down at Eagle Pass, then — at the risk of paraphrasing Trump — we won’t have a country anymore.
Democratic Texas Congressmen Greg Casar and Joaquin Castro have called for Biden to take federal control of the Texas National Guard.
“We can create an immigration system that is safe, orderly, and humane,” Casar posted on social media. “It’s Democrats’ job to push back on razor wire, inhumane cages, and broken policies of the past.”
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