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As U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson and other congressional Republicans gathered on the banks of the Rio Grande to highlight the migrant crisis at the Texas-Mexico border and criticize the Biden administration's handling of it, Gov. Greg Abbott suggested that a resurfaced video appeared to show the Biden administration violating a federal court order barring Customs and Border Protection agents from cutting razor wire the state installed to discourage unlawful immigration.
Posted by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., during his visit to Eagle Pass on Jan. 3 with Johnson and around 60 other House Republicans, the video shows Border Patrol agents snipping concertina wire along the banks of the Rio Grande as dozens of migrants wade toward U.S. soil. Some are shown reaching land with the aid of a rope affixed to a CBP pickup truck.
"Importantly, if this video was taken today, it means that the Biden Admin. is in direct violation of a current court order by the 5th circuit court of appeals prohibiting the border patrol from cutting the razor wire erected by Texas," Abbott wrote in a fiery post Jan. 3 on X.
Abbott vowed to prosecute the Biden administration for contempt of court if the claim were confirmed.
Abbott, however, should have known the video was taken several weeks before the court order came down because he posted a video of the same incident in September.
Gaetz’s tweet of the video was also misleading.
"I’m currently in Eagle Pass, TX witnessing the intentional destruction of our Southern Border by the Biden administration," Gaetz said in the video post on X just before 2 p.m. Jan. 3. It had been viewed more than a million times by that night and received more than 5,000 retweets.
Gaetz wrote that an unnamed "Texas bc official" had sent the video, which "shows how illegal aliens are being encouraged to invade our country while the fencing put up by Texas is cut open by @CBP."
Abbott's post, which cited Gaetz's video, had been viewed more than 500,000 times and liked more than 15,000 times by the afternoon on Jan. 4.
Abbott's office did not respond to American-Statesman requests for comment. In an email statement, a spokesman for Rep. Gaetz said "the post did not indicate that the video was taken this week."
The incident shown in Gaetz's video occurred several weeks before a federal appeals court in late October issued an order temporarily barring the Biden administration from removing the barbed barrier.
A very similar video of the same incident circulated widely in late September 2023, a CBP spokesperson told the American-Statesman, which conducted reverse-image searches of several stills from the clip to confirm it was first circulated several months ago.
Shared by Abbott along with the Daily Mail and numerous X users, the video from September shows the two CBP agents cutting a section of wire, albeit from a minutely different angle. The September video and the one Gaetz shared Jan. 3 show the exact same attire, foliage, background and wire arrangement — including a pink plastic object on the right side of the section of exposed wire — and the same migrants wading through the river below the agents.
After that video first circulated in September, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued to stop the federal government from removing the wire. The Department of Homeland Security released a statement at the time saying that border agents "have a responsibility under federal law" to protect migrants from being injured regardless of their legal status. Migrant children have been lacerated by the fences, needing stitches in some cases, USA Today reported.
Judge Alia Moses, the chief judge for the U.S. Western District of Texas, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, issued a temporary order Oct. 30 barring the wire's removal except in cases of emergency.
"The Court shall grant the temporary relief requested, with one important exception for any medical emergency that mostly likely results in serious bodily injury or death to a person, absent any boats or other life-saving apparatus available to avoid such medical emergencies prior to reaching the concertina wire barrier," the judge wrote in the court filing.
The issue then pingponged between opposing rulings. Moses reversed her position and issued a new order authorizing the federal government to continue cutting the wire in November, but a Dec. 19 decision from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals again prohibited cutting of border wire.
The Justice Department appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 3.
Austin American-Statesman staff reporter John C. Moritz contributed reporting.
Texas Gov, Greg Abbott, post on X, Sept. 20, 2023
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, post on X, Jan. 3, 2024
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., post on X, Jan. 3, 2024
Corpus Christi Caller Times, Ken Paxton files court action to stop feds from cutting through state's border razor wire, Oct. 27, 2023
Corpus Christi Caller Times, Federal judge orders US border authorities to cease cutting razor wire installed by Texas, Oct. 30, 2023
Phone interview with Customs and Border Protection spokesperson, Jan. 3, 2024