For the first time in years, the United States government has filed land condemnation cases against the owners of two properties in Cameron County.
In the past few weeks, federal attorneys filed two lawsuits seeking access to land south of the western edge of Brownsville and in the town of San Pedro.
The lawsuits state that Border Patrol is seeking access to the properties for the purposes of surveying, and testing for proposed construction of roads, fencing, vehicle barriers, security lighting, cameras, sensors and related structures for securing the border.
The suit targets 114.14 acres of land and lists the State of Texas, Wanda Hollon and Robert R. Mathers as defendants. The other action is against 0.9987 acres of land owned by Salvador J. Castillo and Yvette Arroyo.
As of late last week, federal court records did not list an attorney for either party and efforts to reach the defendants were unsuccessful.
While most of President Donald Trump’s promise to expand the border wall has centered in Hidalgo County in the Rio Grande Valley, in October of 2018, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it planned to fill in 11 gaps in the existing 18-foot border fence built in Cameron County more than a decade ago.
It’s not immediately clear whether this litigation is connected to that effort, which is ongoing. Since the announcement, construction workers have been spotted in the rural areas off of Southmost Boulevard and near Los Indios, where they have been working on the border wall.
The lawsuit against the State of Texas, Hollon and Mathers seeks access to 114.14 acres of agricultural property approximately one mile north west of the Silas Ray Power Station, which is located off of Power Plant Drive on the western edge of Brownsville.
The property, which is south of Highway 281 and sits adjacent to a bend in the Rio Grande, is valued at $43,576, according to Cameron County appraisal records.
The 0.9987 acres the government wants access to is a private residence in San Pedro. A person at the house Thursday morning said the homeowner was away and declined to comment.
Initial conferences in these cases are scheduled for July 30 at 1:30 p.m. in front of U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez.
The first border wall condemnation lawsuits date back to 2008, 2009 and 2010 and many of those cases are still open. In 2013, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, who now serves in Houston, consolidated nearly two dozen of those cases. Over the past six months or so, individual cases have been severed from the consolidation as the litigation continues.
Trump has said a border wall is needed to secure the border and stop illegal immigration and the flow of illegal drugs into the United States.
Last month recorded the highest number of apprehensions since 2007, with 132,887 apprehensions in May; the first time those numbers exceeded 100,000 since April 2007.