Immigration tension leads to standoff between states and federal government

The Supreme Court issued an order in a pending case on January 22 permitting the Department of Homeland Security to remove barbed wire installed on the U.S. southern border by the state of Texas. Two days later, Texas Governor Greg Abbott responded with a letter stating that the federal government has “broken the compact between the United States and the states” and that Texas would continue its efforts to secure the border. Twenty-five other Republican governors declared their support for the Texas letter, igniting a heated debate over America’s ongoing immigration crisis.

The 5–4 Supreme Court order was given without explanation. Such a remedy, though, is typical in decisions made under emergency circumstances. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett, an alumna and former member of the faculty at Notre Dame Law School, joined Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson in siding with the federal government. 

Following Abbott’s response, several governors also pledged to send personnel and resources from their respective states to Texas in support of Operation Lone Star, Texas’ multi-billion dollar border security initiative. To date, the program has apprehended more than 500,000 illegal immigrants, arrested criminals, and seized millions of lethal doses of fentanyl before they could be trafficked into the United States.

Another front in the immigration policy battle opened on February 4, when the text of a long-awaited bipartisan Senate bill addressing the border crisis was made public. The 370-page proposed national security supplemental received near-universal condemnation from conservative lawmakers and commentators alike for containing limited provisions and inadequate funding for border protection.

The bipartisan proposal bundled immigration enforcement measures with additional U.S. funding for Israel and Ukraine. Only $20 billion of the $118 billion package was allocated for addressing the border crisis. Republican Speaker Mike Johnson said that the Senate legislation would be “dead on arrival” if it were to reach the House of Representatives. Former President Donald J. Trump, now almost certainly the Republican nominee in November’s general election, also attacked the proposal.

“The ridiculous ‘Border’ Bill is nothing more than a highly sophisticated trap for Republicans to assume the blame on what the Radical Left Democrats have done to our Border, just in time for our most important EVER Election,” the GOP frontrunner posted on Truth Social.

Junior Nathan Desautels echoed the former president’s sentiments, saying that “any substantial border bill would look at reimplementing the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, ending catch and release, and ending the abuse of asylum parole. Instead, the most that this bill can offer is the ‘potential’ for Biden to take measures to close the border if there are more than 8,500 reported crossings in a day.” 

Desautels also suggested that the Republican approach to the bipartisan Senate negotiations reflects the party’s defeatist mentality. “While it’s no surprise that the DNC is intent on unlimited illegal immigration, the cowardly and corrupt establishment GOP sheepishly begs for just 3,100,000 illegal immigrants per year and tries to sell it as a great win,” he argued.

Although many conservatives argued that the bipartisan national security proposal amounted to an acceptance of the Biden administration’s open-border policies, some have suggested that Republicans should be more accepting of a compromise with their small majority in the House.

Junior Luca Fanucchi said, “I think that the inability of the GOP to pass any sort of legislation on its own is a huge problem. If you look at the Democrats, they may not always agree, but they recognize the importance of party unity. Our inability to maintain party unity on key votes is a huge disadvantage for Speaker Johnson going into any sort of negotiation with Senator Schumer and President Biden.”

Throughout the border crisis, an overwhelming majority of congressional Republicans have harshly criticized United States Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, accusing him of “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law.” Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia made an unsuccessful attempt to Mayorkas in November 2023; Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee introduced two new articles of impeachment in late January.

When the House voted on the new impeachment on February 6, three Republicans—Ken Buck of Colorado, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, and Tom McClintock of California—broke with their caucus to vote with the Democrats. Republican Blake Moore of Utah flipped to “no” with the vote threatening to end in a tie, allowing GOP leadership to call for another vote on the issue using procedural rules.

The defeat reflects the GOP’s narrow majority in the House, which became even smaller after the recent expulsion of New York’s George Santos and the retirement of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy at the end of 2023. Nevertheless, House Republican leadership intends to take up the impeachment again when House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who was absent for the first vote because of cancer treatments, returns to Washington. With Scalise’s support and all Republicans present and voting, the impeachment could succeed, assuming that there are no further GOP defections.

With exit polls from the Iowa Caucus showing that 34% of voters rank immigration as their top priority, just behind the economy at 38 precent, the border is poised to be one of the top issues in the November general election.

Byline: PJ Butler is a senior studying political science and theology. To hear his thoughts on Apple Vision Pro, email him at

Photo Credit: Jerry Glaser, Wikimedia Commons

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