Landowners Vs. Border Patrol Lawsuits Being Prepared
The government is readying 102 court cases against landowners in Arizona, California and Texas for blocking efforts to select sites for a fence along the Mexican border, a Homeland Security Department official told the Associated Press.
With the lawsuits expected soon, the legal action would mark an escalation in the clash between the government and the property owners. The Bush administration wants to build 370 miles of fencing and 300 miles of vehicle barriers by the end of the year.
A number of property owners have granted the government access to their land. But others have refused. The agency sent letters to 135 of them last month, warning they had 30 days to comply or face court action.
AP reports that 33 complied. The deadline for many of the owners has already passed or will shortly.
Resistance is most intense in Texas, which accounts for 71 cases, while there are 20 against California landowners and 11 in Arizona, Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke says.
The government may not need all the properties for the project. Officials need to determine which to buy or seize through eminent domain, or whether alternatives such as lighting, more Border Patrol agents or technology would work better in those areas.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has made clear there is a limit to how long federal officials will wait for access to the land. He told reporters last month that this process is “not open for endless talk.”
“The door is still open to talk if people want to engage with us, if they have some alternative ideas. But it’s not open for endless talk. We do need to get moving on this proposition,” he said at a news conference Dec. 7.