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Thread: City of Laredo-owned land eyed for border wall

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  1. #1
    Administrator Jean's Avatar
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    City of Laredo-owned land eyed for border wall

    September 24, 2018

    By Julia Wallace

    President Donald Trump's infamous border wall rhetoric has been rendered suddenly real for Laredo City Council, concerning a city-owned piece of property in the Rio Grande Valley.

    The City of Laredo owns 934 acres in La Grulla, Starr County, for its water rights. The city collects water based on their ownership of water rights. In order for the city to expand their water collection, they purchased these rights in the Valley and had to buy the land that came with it, Assistant City Attorney Juan Caballero told LMT.

    In 2008, the federal government built 54 miles of fencing in the Valley. This year, Congress budgeted enough money to build 37 miles of fencing in Hidalgo and Starr counties, including through the city's La Grulla property.

    John Smith, deputy civil chief for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas, came to council asking for the right of entry to the city's property in order to conduct surveys and core testing for a future wall.

    Councilman Roberto Balli asked what would happen if they didn't allow the government access to the land.

    "If you don't let me in, then I will file a declaration of taking lawsuit against the city to get the right of entry to come in and do the surveys. I don't mean to come across as being harsh or rash, that's just my next steps," Smith said.

    What's the incentive for the city to allow them to come onto their property? Councilman George Altgelt asked.

    "I guess the incentive is not to have to go through a court proceeding," Smith said.

    Councilman Alex Perez made a motion to deny them access, which Councilmen Vidal Rodriguez and Altgelt supported. Councilwoman Nelly Vielma voted against, and Mayor Pete Saenz did not vote. Council members Balli, Alberto Torres and Rudy Gonzalez were not present.

    Since not enough votes were garnered either way, Saenz said they will bring this item back at their next meeting. Smith said if they don't hear anything in the next week or two, they'll file the declaration of taking "just to get things moving."

    Allowing the government onto this city land would not mean allowing them to build the wall.

    And City Attorney Kristina Hale said at this point the city doesn't have many options.

    "I think we should wait and reserve any objections we have to when they do the actual taking, if that in fact takes place," she said.

    The neighbors on either side of the city's property had already consented to the license agreement, Smith said, and so far his office has only had to file one declaration of taking for the right of entry.

    "The time to pick your fight is probably not right now on right of entry. The time to pick your fight is if they decide to build on your property ... and do an actual taking of your property. That's where you get bang for your buck if you're going to defend for it, because that's dollars in your pocket," Smith said.

    The declaration of taking lawsuit will result in compensation to the landowner for property taken, Smith said. He said new border wall construction in the Valley, not necessarily in La Grulla, will begin as early as next spring.

    The fence will be 18 to 21 feet tall, Smith said. A farmer is currently leasing the city's land in La Grulla to grow crops such as onions. And since the fence will bisect the property north of the river, a large gate with a keycode will be built so the tenant and his employees can still farm on the other side, Smith said.

    Mayor Saenz asked if the Department of Justice is treating the cities and school districts who own land along the Rio Grande the same as private owners.

    "It's the exact same process. We try to treat every landowner exactly the same, whether it's the right of entry phase or whether it's the compensation phase," Smith said.

    They are dealing with about 250 properties this time, he said.

    When the federal government underwent this process for the first time in Texas 10 years ago, Homeland Security circumvented laws designed to help landowners receive fair compensation, the Texas Tribune and ProPublica reported. The agency did not conduct formal appraisals of targeted parcels. Instead, it issued low-ball offers based on substandard estimates of property values.

    Larger, wealthier property owners who could afford lawyers negotiated deals that, on average, tripled the opening bids from Homeland Security. Smaller and poorer landholders took whatever the government offered — or wrung out small increases in settlements. The government conceded publicly that landowners without lawyers might wind up shortchanged, but did little to protect their interests.

    Nearly a decade later, scores of landowners remain tangled in lawsuits. The government has already taken their land and built the border fence. But it has not resolved claims for its value.

    Last week, the ACLU Border Rights Center released a report examining the myraid consequences of Trump's border wall proposal, called, "Death, Damage, and Failure: Past, Present, and Future Impacts of Walls on the U.S.-Mexico Border."

    The authors write that if the Lower Rio Grande Valley sector is completely walled off, a portion of its cross-border traffic will likely be displaced into the Laredo sector.

    "While its apprehension numbers are currently low ... the Laredo Sector has the highest rate of deaths to apprehensions of any sector on the southern border. Pushing more crossings through the border's most dangerous sector is likely to cause more people who might have otherwise survived their journey to die agonizing deaths. If the House bill passes and the Laredo Sector is largely walled off, crossings will be pushed into still more remote and perilous places. It is important to accept the fact that the number of people who died crossing into the United States before border walls went up and the Prevention through Deterrence strategy was implemented was relatively small. Now hundreds die every year. Border walls have contributed to the deaths of thousands of men, women, and children, and the erection of new walls will contribute to the deaths of still more," the authors report.

    https://www.lmtonline.com/local/arti...l-13252922.php
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  2. #2
    Senior Member stoptheinvaders's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jean View Post

    "While its apprehension numbers are currently low ... the Laredo Sector has the highest rate of deaths to apprehensions of any sector on the southern border. Pushing more crossings through the border's most dangerous sector is likely to cause more people who might have otherwise survived their journey to die agonizing deaths. If the House bill passes and the Laredo Sector is largely walled off, crossings will be pushed into still more remote and perilous places. It is important to accept the fact that the number of people who died crossing into the United States before border walls went up and the Prevention through Deterrence strategy was implemented was relatively small. Now hundreds die every year. Border walls have contributed to the deaths of thousands of men, women, and children, and the erection of new walls will contribute to the deaths of still more," the authors report.
    Do not blame border walls for the death of these INVADERS. They die because of the choice they made.
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