Texas governor asserts state right to self-defense in response to escalating southern border tensions

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a statement asserting Texas’ constitutional right to self-defense on Wednesday as tensions with the Biden administration over security along the US southern border escalated. The statement specifically references Article I, § 10, Clause 3 of the US Constitution, which Abbott interpreted as granting Texas the authority to act autonomously against an “invasion” due to federal inaction.

The Executive Branch of the United States has a constitutional duty to enforce federal laws protecting States, including immigration laws on the books right now,” Governor Abbott’s statement reads. “President Biden has instructed his agencies to ignore federal statutes that mandate the detention of illegal immigrants. The failure of the Biden Administration to fulfill the duties imposed by Article IV, § 4 has triggered Article I, § 10, Clause 3.”

The conflict follows a Supreme Court ruling on January 22, wherein the court sided with the Biden administration in a dispute over a barrier along the southern border. The court, in a 5-4 decision, allowed federal officials to modify or remove parts of a razor-wire barrier erected by Texas along the border. Despite the decision against Texas, Abbott has remained steadfast, continuing the deployment of the Texas National Guard and other state personnel to carry out border security operations.

This move is not isolated but follows a pattern of direct actions taken by Texas to address what the state government has called an unprecedented surge in illegal border crossings along the southern border. Texas intensified its border security measures with the launch of Abbott’s Operation Lone Star in March 2021. According to the official statement released in 2023, the operation aims to “fill the dangerous gaps left by the Biden Administration’s refusal to secure the border,” actively working to “stop the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and people into Texas; and prevent, detect, and interdict transnational criminal behavior between ports of entry.”

Since the launch of Operation Lone Star, Texas has reported substantial enforcement results: over 496,000 undocumented immigrant apprehensions and more than 38,500 criminal arrests, including over 34,900 felony charges. The ongoing legal and political contest over border control and immigration policy has fueled a broader conversation about Texas sovereignty, with some even speculating on the remote possibility of “Texit”—a potential move by Texas to assert its independence.