'Take Our Border Back': What we know so far about the Texas border standoff

'Take Our Border Back': What we know so far about the Texas border standoff

By: john faerseth&
siri christiansen&
January 29 2024

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'Take Our Border Back': What we know so far about the Texas border standoff

Razor and concertina wire, installed by the Texas National Guard, is placed in Shelby Park at the U.S.-Mexico border in Eagle Pass, Texas, U.S., January 16, 2024. REUTERS/Kaylee Greenlee Beal/File Photo

Hundreds of far-right extremists, spearheaded by a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, are organizing a convoy towards the Texas border to fight off an “invasion” of illegal immigrants in what some Telegram users have likened to the American Revolution of 1776.

The convoy is heading for Shelby Park in the small border town of Eagle Pass, which has become the epicenter of a tense standoff between Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the U.S. government.

(Source: YouTube)

On January 24, Abbott declared that Texas was under an “invasion” of illegal immigrants and that this gave the state the constitutional right to defend itself by continuing to roll out rows of razor wire at the border crossing in Shelby Park. This prevented federal agents from accessing the site, defying a Supreme Court ruling. Abbott also claimed that President Joe Biden refuses to enforce current immigration laws and “violated his oath to faithfully execute immigration laws enacted by Congress.”

Since then, the situation has rapidly escalated into a nationwide conflict as several high-profile far-right figureheads have rallied support for Texas’ cause, with Infowars’ Alex Jones calling it a “war for America.” 

Logically Facts explains what’s happening in Texas and the surrounding narratives.

‘Take Our Border Back’

The “Take Our Border Back” convoy’s crowdfunder, which aims to bring in money for gas, city permits, and other necessities, has raised $124,700 in just a few days as of January 29, when the convoy is expected to start. The convoy has been organized in a Telegram channel with over 1,000 members, some advising participants to bring “kits” to the rallies to protect themselves and help out “if stuff goes down” – despite the organizers claiming the protest will be peaceful.  

(Source: X)

According to Daryl Johnson, a U.S. expert on domestic extremist groups and a former senior analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, the standoff between the State of Texas and the U.S. Government has the potential to attract and incite far-right extremists.

“Far-right extremists have long used the immigration issue to recruit and radicalize their adherents,” Johnson told Logically Facts. “Far-right militias have even gone so far as to patrol, detain, and make citizen’s arrests of immigrants crossing onto private ranches dotting the southern border with Mexico. Governor Abbott’s heated rhetoric concerning Texas’ constitutional rights being the ‘supreme law of the land’ and ‘superseding any federal statute to the contrary’ echoes extremist positions, defiance, and hatred towards the Federal Government by anti-government militias and sovereign citizens.”  

How did this start?

The dispute is part of a two-year conflict between Texas and the Biden administration over how to handle the influx of migrants at the state’s 1,930-kilometer-long border with Mexico.

In March 2021, shortly after the election of President Joe Biden, Governor Abbott launched Operation Lone Star, a border security initiative in response to increased border crossings, which he blames on Biden’s immigration policies. A few months later, Abbott issued a proclamation declaring illegal migration a “disaster,” stating that “the ongoing surge of individuals unlawfully crossing the Texas-Mexican border poses an ongoing and imminent threat of widespread and severe damage, injury, and loss of life and property.” The proclamation gave him authority to deploy thousands of state troopers and members of the Texas National Guard to the border. Thousands of people have been arrested as part of the operation. At the same time, Abbott also began bussing asylum seekers to cities run by Democrats. 

Thousands of migrants crossed over from Mexico via Shelby Park in the summer of 2023, and Texas state troopers and National Guard members have kept a large presence at the site since. The drastic measures employed to keep migrants away, including barbed wire and large floating barriers in the Rio Grande river, have led to protests from environmentalists and provoked tension with Mexico, which said it violates treaties and called on the U.S. government to remove the objects. Despite this, Governor Abbott has continued to argue that the influx of migrants is an “invasion” that invokes a state’s constitutional right to wage war. 

How did it escalate?

Texas state troopers seized control over Shelby Park on January 11, 2024, despite protests by the mayor of Eagle Pass. On January 12, the U.S. Department of Justice alleged in a U.S. Supreme Court filing that federal Border Patrol agents were denied access to Shelby Park and that razor wires and gates that had been illegally installed in the area prevented them from managing the border. The Supreme Court ruled on January 22 that federal officials can enter and remove the razor wire, but Abbot has publicly challenged the ruling and called for the Texas National Guard and state troopers to “hold the line.”

Abbott quickly received public backing from 25 Republican governors, including former presidential race candidate Ron DeSantis, who issued a joint statement (available here) arguing that the Biden Administration has “attacked and sued Texas for stepping up to protect American citizens.” Clay Higgins, a GOP congressman from Louisiana, went one step further, writing in a widely shared X post, “The feds are staging a civil war, and Texas should stand their ground.”

(Source: X)

The conflict has also engulfed former President and current Republican White House front-runner Donald Trump, who has urged “all willing states” to “deploy” their National Guards to the border.

“Instead of fighting to protect our Country from this onslaught, Biden is, unbelievably, fighting to tie the hands of Governor Abbott and the State of Texas, so that the Invasion continues unchecked. In the face of this National Security, Public Safety, and Public Health Catastrophe, Texas has rightly invoked the Invasion Clause of the Constitution, and must be given full support to repel the Invasion,” Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social

Trump also took the opportunity to promote his presidential candidacy in the forthcoming election, claiming in a Truth Social post that he will use his presidency to “work hand in hand with Governor Abbott and other Border States to Stop the Invasion, Seal the Border, and Rapidly Begin the Largest Domestic Deportation Operation in History.”

The wording has been criticized for inciting a civil war. “Trump is openly calling for states to take up arms against the federal government, which is as close to calling for civil war as you can get without actually using the words.” Caroline Orr Bueno, a behavioral scientist specializing in disinformation, wrote on X.

Does Abbot’s argument hold up?

Abbott’s reason for blocking access to federal officials is that Texas constitutional authority is "the supreme law of the land and supersedes any federal statutes to the contrary." He also claims that the U.S. Constitution gives him authority to do so because the federal government isn't protecting Texas against what he describes as an  "invasion." 

According to the Governor, the Federal government has "broken the compact with states." By doing this, he invoked the so-called Compact Theory, whose premise is that the states formed the federal government and the constitutional system, which means the states can control their terms. The Southern states used the same argument to justify secession, leading to the American Civil War in 1861-65.

However, the “compact theory” was discredited in 1833, as Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster argued that the U.S. Constitution is an agreement between the sovereign people, not sovereign states. Therefore, it is up to the federal courts, not individual states, to determine whether a federal law violates the Constitution. Abraham Lincoln also sided with this interpretation, and the compact theory has not been a considerable force in American constitutional politics after 1865.

Some social media users have also argued that Texas has the right to secede, a topic that conservatives in the state have raised several times. 

Source: X/Screenshot (modified by Logically Facts)

Texas is unique among the continental U.S. states, having been an independent republic for thirteen years before joining the United States in 1845. Texas declared independence from Mexico in 1836 and was recognized by the United States in 1837. 

However, while the treaty of annexation gave Texas the right to split up into up to five states, it did not mention any right of secession. While Texas seceded together with other Southern states in 1861, the question of secession is considered settled by the Civil War. Additionally, in 1869, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Confederate government had never been legal because Texas’ secession was itself illegal. 

Misinformation begins to spread 

Fact-checking organizations have already picked up on misattributed footage from previous protests being reused and misattributed as the “Take Our Border Back” convoy, which is expected to start today (January 29) and continue until February 3.

Shayan Sardarizadeh, a journalist at BBC Verify, pointed to a video on X claiming to show the convoy, which has amassed over half a million views. In reality, the video is from a protest against COVID-19 restrictions in February 2022.

(Source: X)

Similarly, a video claiming to show American farmers gathering at the Texas border, which has received 328k views, is in reality from a farmers’ protest in Germany.

Another narrative that has spread in social media is that Republican governors of 25 states have deployed state national guards to the border in support of Texas, as urged by former President Donald Trump. This has sparked concern, with some commentators arguing it could amount to an insurrection against federal authority. As with many Republican states in the Southern U.S., some have also pointed to similarities with the beginning of the American Civil War.

In fact, on January 25, 25 Republican governors signed a statement of support for Texas and Governor Abbott. Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt also suggested that three southern states, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Florida, were prepared to deploy their National Guards. However, according to a fact check by Snopes, no information indicated that any governors had issued orders to deploy state National Guard units to the border.

Yet another narrative is that President Joe Biden has been recorded saying, “We're going to make sure those cowboys don't stop the surge of military-aged men from entering. If we have to send F-15s to Texas there and wage war against Texas, so be it." However, while an audio recording featuring a muffled voice somewhat similar to Biden’s is being shared on social media, the recording appears to be AI-generated, and there is currently no evidence of Biden having made such a statement.

Logically Facts continues to monitor the situation and any misinformation narratives or misattributed footage that may arise.

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