JANUARY 17, 2008
A Texas town that refused to let federal workers access its land to build a congressionally approved fence along the U.S.-Mexico border was ordered by a judge to temporarily turn over the property so the Department of Homeland Security can finally begin the project.
It marks the first defeat for a coalition of border town mayors, business officials and residents who oppose the much-needed fence and have vowed to deny federal workers access to their land. They claim that a fence would negatively affect the “bi-national” way of life along the border as well as the environment.
In fact, the defiant mayor defeated in court this week, Eagle Rock’s Chad Foster, is the chairman of the so-called Texas Border Coalition and among the barrier’s biggest adversaries. Located about 100 miles southwest of San Antonio, Eagle Rock has around 25,000 residents and Foster doesn’t want to lose an important perk that people on both sides of the border have had for years; regularly crossing back and forth without the interruption of a barrier.
The mayor called U.S. District Judge Alia Moses Ludlum’s order to surrender 233 acres of city-owned property heavy-handed and the federal government’s suit to access it an overly aggressive action.
The Department of Homeland Security plans to build nearly 400 miles of border fence by the end of the year as part of a recently enacted law. When President George W. Bush signed the fence legislation in October, he was supported by both of Texas’ U.S. senators who recognized the need for the barrier.
Federal officials say this is just the first of many legal actions to come involving the fence project. The Department of Justice is expected to file more than 100 lawsuits against landowners in Texas, Arizona and California who have already expressed their intention to deny the government access to build a border fence.
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