Another Iron Curtain Going Up

Sisters and brothers–

No matter what, the U.S. government WILL take the land and WILL build the wall. (So much for close links with sister cities).

Leslie Cunningham

If y’all support us in our opposition to the wall … Chertoff will NOT build the wall. In March we will hold a major protest walk … 9 days … 126 miles. Join us for one of those days and help send a loud voice to Chertoff saying “Hell No! No iron curtain. Not in America. Not in Texas.”

Jay Johnson-Castro

Playing devil’s advocate, why are you against the wall (apart from the question of whether it would work or not)?

Are you in favor of open immigration into the US (as was the policy earlier in our history)?

Mike Eisenstadt

Sisters and brothers:

Most people along the border don’t want a wall because they want to continue the economic, social, and family ties they have with folks on “el otro lado” (the other side), and they don’t want the federal government to take their public and private property away from them. (There are other issues involving Indian tribal properties, access to water supplies, big environmental concerns, etc., etc.)

I myself am for open borders and for the right of people to migrate to locations where they think they can earn a living. Not all the folks opposed to the border wall agree with my position–probably most don’t agree with me. (Jay, is that correct?)

My friend Jay Johnson-Castro in Del Rio rightly reproves me for my defeatism. I meant to say that the U.S. government intends to do what it wants no matter what the people want. It came out sounding like I was saying there’s nothing we can do. Jay is always trying to do something. He will send me info about their plans for protests in March, and I’ll try to get down to the border for at least one day. Maybe try to take some of y’all with me.

Leslie Cunningham

Judge urges common sense in border fence land disputes
By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN , Associated Press Writer

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — A federal judge urged the government Friday to use common sense and “good neighborness” in working out access to 12 pieces of private property in Cameron County that it says it needs to study land for the border fence.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen did not rule Friday, but an order was expected early next week granting the government access but with some guidelines.

Hanen’s handling was markedly different from the way U.S. District Judge Alia Moses Ludlum handled an almost identical case in Eagle Pass. In that case, the government filed its lawsuit and Ludlum ordered the city to surrender 233 acres before it could muster a response.

Brownsville residents, including Mayor Pat Ahumada, have been among the most vocal critics of the border fence. Ahumada denied surveyors access to city-owned land, noting that early plans showed the fence cutting through downtown Brownsville.

Last fall, the Department of Homeland Security offered some property owners $3,000 for access to their land for surveys. Many refused on principle, with Ahumada calling it “blood money.”

By year’s end, Homeland Security Michael Chertoff sent letters to residents threatening to take them to court if access was not granted. So far, Eagle Pass and the Cameron County case have reached courtrooms.

The Justice Department sued 12 Cameron County landowners last week to get access to their property for 180 days for survey and other investigatory work. Hundreds of other property owners have already agreed to grant the access, said Andy Goldfrank from the Justice Department’s land acquisition division.

“We need to understand what is on the ground there,” Goldfrank said.

An attorney for two property owners in Brownsville said that with eminent domain laws, the government already has essentially taken his clients’ land.

“The government has won from the beginning,” attorney Albert Villegas said. “The question is only when (they will have access) and what they can do.” Villegas requested $100,000 over the $100 the law requires to be paid because the easement will tie up his clients’ downtown commercial property.

Hanen suggested the government’s approach has been just short of friendly.

“What I’m trying to do is engender into this process for lack of a better word, a little common sense or good neighborness,” Hanen said. “That’s the thing I’m asking, and maybe ultimately ordering is, use some common sense.”

Hanen asked many questions of the government and established some ground rules.
“We’re not here to debate the merits of the fence,” Hanen said. But “I don’t want anyone questioning the patriotism of the people who own this land. Some of it has been in their possession for generations.”

Alberto Mendoza, whose mother owns property in Cameron County, said his mother is willing to give temporary access to fence surveyers, but worries about receiving just compensation if the fence is builty through it.

“With that wall they cut my mom’s property in two pieces,” Mendoza said, with more than half of it, down to the Rio Grande, possibly ending up in a no-man’s land between the fence and the Mexican border.

Hanen also asked the government when it would be able to tell property owners exactly where the fence was going.

Goldfrank gave no specific answer, but said that they hoped to end the surverys in eight weeks and then begin discussions for a final layout.

Attorney David Garza said that until last Friday his client thought the government wanted access to all 1,400 of their acres. With the complaint filed last week, the government made clear it would only need access to about seven acres.

Since the land is leased to a farmer who planted winter wheat, Garza said his client wanted some indemnification in case the crop is damaged.

Hanen’s order is expected to include guidelines for how the government’s contractors may access the property so as to cause the least damage, but ultimately grant the temporary access they request. Villegas said he expects Hanen’s order next week.
President Bush has signed a law requiring 700 miles of fence be built along the Mexican border to help combat illegal immigration.

The Department of Homeland Security is trying to build 370 miles of fence by the end of the year. The lower Rio Grande Valley between Brownsville and McAllen is densely populated and closely linked with sister cities on the Mexican side. Property owners in the valley worry that the fence will cut them off from large swaths of their property.


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