(The Center Square) – Eagle Pass, Texas, takes center stage on Sunday as 14 governors join Gov. Greg Abbott to show solidarity against President Joe Biden’s border policies and support for states’ constitutional right to self-defense.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that Border Patrol agents could destroy concertina wire barriers on state land near Eagle Pass, 25 governors said they would “stand with Texas.”
The ruling was issued in one of three lawsuits filed over Texas’ border security measures in the Eagle Pass area. City and county officials declared an emergency and issued disaster declarations there in response to an influx of illegal border crossers and crime.
“The Texas National Guard continues to hold the line in Eagle Pass,” Abbott said. “Texas will not back down from our efforts to secure the border in Biden’s absence.”
Abbott has invoked the self-defense clause of the U.S. Constitution, saying the president broke his constitutional compact with the states and Texas has a constitutional right to defend its border when the federal government won’t. Twenty-five governors agree, saying if the president “won’t defend us, states will have to defend themselves.”
More than half of them traveled to Texas to show their support. Those joining Abbott Sunday include Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Arkansas), Brian Kemp (Georgia), Brad Little (Idaho), Eric Holcomb (Indiana), Kim Reynolds (Iowa), Jeff Landry (Louisiana), Tate Reeves (Mississippi), Mike Parson (Missouri), Greg Gianforte (Montana), Jim Pillen (Nebraska), Chris Sununu (New Hampshire), Kristi Noem (South Dakota), Bill Lee (Tennessee) and Spencer Cox (Utah).
While no court has ordered Abbott to stop building concertina wire or other barriers, or take them down, the Biden administration demanded that Abbott instruct the Texas Military Department to relinquish control of Shelby Park, a park in Eagle Pass. Abbott, as commander in chief of the Texas military, ordered National Guard troops to take it over last month, arguing Border Patrol agents were facilitating illegal entry into Texas using the park as a staging ground to violate federal law.
The park is still blocked off, guardsmen are patrolling the river, and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers are continuing to apprehend illegal border crossers for violating state crimes. The Biden administration gave Abbott 24 hours to relinquish the park; that deadline came and went last week. The park is still under Abbott’s control.
While some Democrats have called on the president to federalize Texas troops or order their arrest, a constitutional law expert has suggested that Congress review if intentionally pulling troops out of Abbott’s chain of command constitutes an impeachable offense.
The union representing Border Patrol agents also said agents will not arrest Texas National Guardsmen “for following their LAWFUL orders. That’s fake news.” It also said agents and guardsmen “work together and respect each other’s jobs. Period.”
“Lawful orders, no matter how unpopular or distasteful amongst rank-and-file agents, must be followed,” it added. “Unlawful orders (as determined by competent legal counsel and not what some outhouse lawyer behind a keyboard says) will not be followed.”
Border Patrol agents “appreciate and respect” Texas’ efforts, the union said, “in the midst of this catastrophe that the Biden Admin has unleashed on America. We want to be perfectly clear, there is no fight between rank-and-file Border Patrol agents and the Texas National Guard, Gov. Abbott, or Texas DPS. It may make flashy headlines, but it simply isn’t true.”
The union also said Abbott’s policies are working. In December, there were 72,000 arrests in the Del Rio CBP Sector, which includes Eagle Pass. In January, after the Shelby Park seizure by Texas National Guard, arrests dropped to 16,000.
“Enforcement works. Take note Biden Admin,” the union said.
While no other Texas governor has had 25 governors come to his aid in modern history, Texas has received national and international aid before. Nearly 190 years ago, men came from what are now 22 states and five countries to fight for Texas independence who died at the Alamo. They also came from what are now 26 states and 13 countries to help win the Battle of San Jacinto.
The Shelby Park stand-off, some argue, is analogous to a significant event in Texas history, Texas’ “come and take it” moment, which sparked the Texas Revolution. The same phrase was used in the Revolutionary War by Col. John McIntosh at Georgia’s Fort Morris in 1778 against the British.
In September 1835, the Mexican dictator, General Antonio López de Santa Anna, ordered early Texas settlers living in what is now DeWitt County to surrender a small cannon that had been used to deter Indian war party attacks. They responded, “come and take it.”
Roughly 150 Mexican troops were sent to retrieve it. On Sept. 29, 1835, 18 Gonzales men held them off for two days. On Oct. 2, 1835, the first shots fired in the Texas Revolution came from the Gonzales cannon. Those fighting waved a white flag with a black cannon and single star, saying, “COME AND TAKE IT.” The Mexicans were forced to retreat and would eventually be defeated six months later.
While none of more than 50 Texas counties that have declared an invasion have embraced a fringe secessionist ideology, the phrase “come and take it” is synonymous with Texas independence and state’s rights. Many Texans, including state lawmakers, have told the federal government to “come and cut it,” in defiance of the Supreme Court ruling. In the meantime, Abbott is continuing to fortify concertina wire barriers with the support of half of U.S. governors.