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The fight between Texas and the Feds over immigration enforcement intensifies

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The fight between Texas and the federal government at the border is about more than just razor wire. On its face, the argument is over whether Border Patrol officials can cut down concertina wire that Texas put up. The Supreme Court says yes, the feds do have that authority. Texas Governor Greg Abbott says he'll defy that order. But this is also a fight over who enforces immigration and how America talks about migrants. NPR immigration correspondent Jasmine Garsd is with us. Hi there.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Hi.

SHAPIRO: There's been so much back and forth on the Texas-Mexico border. Can you just quickly bring us up to speed?

GARSD: Sure. So in 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ramps up immigration enforcement. It's called Operation Lonestar. He deploys the National Guard, puts these floating buoys in the Rio Grande, razor wire on its banks. And this is often deadly. Migrants have died because of this. So the Biden administration tells Texas, you have to allow Border Patrol to cut the wire. And Texas says no. This argument went up to the Supreme Court, who last week ruled that Border Patrol can, in fact, intervene. The latest is that over the weekend, Texas doubled down and said, no, not only will we not cut the wire. We're going to put more in.

SHAPIRO: Does Texas have any legal standing to do that after the Supreme Court ruled against them?

GARSD: Well, so this debate is about much more than wire. It's about who enforces immigration law and how. So the National Guard is ultimately part of the U.S. military, overseen by the US president as commander in chief. But except in very specific situations where the president takes federal control, the National Guard in each state takes orders from its state governor. And Governor Greg Abbott has invoked something called the so-called invasion clause in the U.S. Constitution. Abbott says immigration is like a foreign public enemy invasion which Biden is doing nothing about, and Texas has the right to defend itself.

SHAPIRO: Those are such loaded words that we've also heard from presidential candidates - invasion, foreign, public enemy. I mean, this is intense rhetoric.

GARSD: There's absolutely a very dehumanizing rhetoric. As we get deeper into the election year, it's been getting more vitriolic. Here's former President Donald Trump back in December.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: They're poisoning the blood of our country. That's what they've done. They poison mental institutions and prisons all over the world, not just in South America, not just the three or four countries that we think about but all over the world. They're coming into our country.

GARSD: He said this - poisoning the blood of America - multiple times. And here's Florida Governor Ron DeSantis when he was a candidate earlier in the campaign cycle, talking about how he would deal with immigration.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON DESANTIS: I don't see how you can just let them do that and carve through a wall on sovereign U.S. territory with a backpack full of drugs. And so we - of course, you use deadly force.

GARSD: You know, what's striking about this is that it's not factual. You heard DeSantis talking about drug smuggling. NPR has done a lot of reporting about this, and pretty much all fentanyl found on the border has been smuggled through legal points of entry, brought in by U.S. citizens.

SHAPIRO: Some of this rhetoric is stuff that we heard starting in the Trump campaign of 2016 and continuing through his four years as president. Would you say what we're hearing today is different?

GARSD: There's this word I see thrown around a lot lately, which is unprecedented. This kind of talk is not unprecedented. We heard this during the last administration. And frankly, it can be traced back all the way to the 1830s to anti-Irish movements, anti-Catholic, later anti-Italian. The list goes on and on, you know? And that leads to another point, which is that - it's true. Apprehensions at the southwest border are at an all-time high. It's also true that the border didn't used to be policed in the same way. And according to the Cato Institute, in the last decade, the immigrant population has had the slowest growth since the 1960s.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Jasmine Garsd. Thank you.

GARSD: Thank you. 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.

Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.