To build the border wall the federal government has brought condemnation lawsuits against more than 300
Land nearest the
Eloisa Tamez’ property has been in her family since the King of Spain issued the San Pedro Carracitos Land Grant in 1763. In 2007 DHS demanded access to her property for border wall surveys, then initiated condemnation proceedings. Dr. Tamez enlisted the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and initiated a class-action lawsuit alleging that DHS has refused to negotiate with landowners before condemning their property, as the law requires. She also demanded that DHS reveal its criteria for citing the border wall, which in places runs for miles through poor and/or minority communities, then ends abruptly at the property line of wealthy property owners and resort communities. David Pagan of Customs and Border Protection responded, "We do not plan to suspend work on the construction of fence in order to hold a series of additional consultation meetings." On April 15, 2009 the court ruled against Dr. Tamez’, allowing the federal government to seize her land. Within a week the border wall had been built across her property.
Last February Eva Lambert awoke to the sound of heavy equipment erecting the border wall’s steel posts on her land. In her case, either through disregard for the law or incompetence, DHS finished construction of the wall before anyone had contacted her to negotiate a price or condemn her property. Denied her day in court as well as her property, Ms. Lambert is still waiting to find out what compensation will be offered. As she told the Brownsville Herald, "In the end, the government does what it wants."
In the low-lying river delta of South Texas, the treaty that established the
The Department of Homeland Security has offered only to pay for the exact footprint of the border wall (typically, a 60-foot wide strip) as it passes through a parcel of land. In their simplistic calculations, the agency has completely issues such as the devaluation of contiguous property, problems accessing land and homes behind the wall, impacts on livelihood, and the importance of cultural heritage. Despite the range and complexity of these issues, DHS has steadfastly refused to enter into meaningful negotiations with property owners.
The Nature Conservancy’s Southmost Preserve maintains one of the last remaining Sabal Palm forests along the banks of the
Other homes, businesses, and properties that are behind the levees will be walled off entirely, trapped between the wall and the
The Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly claimed that they have consulted with landowners and local officials regarding border wall construction. But when the Texas Border Coalition repeatedly invited DHS and Customs and Border Protection officials to “walk the line” and see the impacts that the border wall will have on specific communities, they responded that they would only do so if the owners of the property that they would be crossing were kept away. Apparently, their preferred method of consultation is a condemnation proceeding.
In the face of these assaults on property rights by the federal government, one would expect
Senator Hutchison did add an amendment to the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that gave the Secretary of Homeland Security the flexibility to decide where walls should be built, as well as to spare places where walls do not make sense. The Homeland Security Secretary was also required to, “consult with the Secretary of Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, States, local governments, Indian tribes, and property owners in the United States to minimize the impact on the environment, culture, commerce, and quality of life for the communities and residents located near the sites at which such fencing is to be constructed.”
Following howls of outrage from right wing pundits and politicians that she had “gutted” the Secure Fence Act, Hutchison backed away from her amendment. She has yet to confront DHS on its refusal to consult with property owners, as epitomized by its demand that landowners be kept away from any DHS employees who walk the line through their property. So long as she is afraid to fight on behalf of
Senator Cornyn’s statements assuring that there will be local consultation have also proved to be empty. Like Senator Hutchison, he has made no concrete effort to stand up for border residents. Instead, Cornyn sponsored the “Emergency Border Security Funding Act of 2007” which called for 700 linear miles of border wall and 300 miles of vehicle barriers along the US – Mexico border, and provided $3 billion dollars to build it. Cornyn’s bill went nowhere, but even without it DHS has received $3.1 billion to build the border wall.
On April 2, 2009, the one year anniversary of former Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff’s border-wide waiver that swept aside 36 federal laws, both of Texas’ Senators voted to add a motion to the Omnibus Appropriations bill that read, “To provide for a point of order against any appropriations bill that fails [to] fully fund the construction of the Southwest border fence.” The vote fell along party lines and failed, but in voting once again in favor of the border wall Hutchison and Cornyn chose party loyalty over the interests of their constituents.
This should not come as a surprise. When Cornyn looks back at the last election, he will look to the north
The fact that their neglect is not surprising does not make it acceptable. Our Senators, as well as our
Some border representatives are working to defend border communities. Representative Grijalva of
With this bill pending and walls under construction, it is critical that our members of Congress hear from their constituents right now. Urge them to support the Border Security and Responsibility Act. Demand that they work to stop further walls from tearing through the borderlands. Though only around 50 miles of border wall remain to be built it is not too late to stop it. If you lived in a home, or owned a farm, or worked at a wildlife refuge that is in the path of one of those miles, you would see every last mile as important.
So long as we sit quietly by and watch the border wall go up, we are irrelevant in the eyes of Congress. If we do not make our voices heard, and make our elected officials listen, mile upon mile of wall will be built. And while we can rail against the politicians who sacrifice our home for political gain, if we are silent we own a portion of the blame.