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Landowners Ban Border Fence Officials

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Landowners Ban Border Fence Officials

U.S.

Landowners Ban Border Fence Officials

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.

ALEX COHEN, host:

And I'm Alex Cohen.

A standoff continues at the U.S.-Mexico border. Homeland Security wants to build 370 miles of fence there but many landowners say no. Some are refusing to let government surveyors onto their property. The government has responded with lawsuits. And this week a judge ordered 10 people in Texas to make their land accessible. That doesn't bode well for Eloisa Tamez. She lives near Brownsville, Texas. And so far she has not let surveyors on her property, land that's been in her family for more than a century.

Ms. ELOISA TAMEZ: The original land grant was awarded by the King of Spain to my ancestors about 1767, and it was 12,000 acres - over 12,000 acres initially, and I now have three of those acres from the original land grant.

COHEN: Three from what was 12,000?

Ms. TAMEZ: Right.

COHEN: If this fence were built, it sounds as if this would split your land in half?

Ms. TAMEZ: Well, it's already split in half by the levee, okay, because that was built in 1936. But what would happen if the wall is built is that they would need more land, and we don't know exactly where that portion will be; thus pretty much ruining all of the property, especially since the wall is going to prevent me from going to the south side of the wall. I mean, I am being - I'm told that a gate will be built somewhere three or four miles east of where my property is. Whereby, if I want to access the other side of the wall, I will have to go through a gate which is going to be manned and where IDs will have to be shown as you go to and from.

COHEN: The Department of Homeland Security says that this fence is necessary to prevent illegal immigration. What's your response?

Ms. TAMEZ: The first reason they gave for coming up with this law was that it was to keep the country safe from terrorists, and no terrorist has come through this border. This business about immigration and the control of immigration, that seemed to be at the time secondary to keeping the country safe from terrorists.

COHEN: Have you spoken with any of your neighbors? Is anyone saying I don't care what the judge says, they're not coming on my property?

Ms. TAMEZ: Well, yes, but we are not about breaking the law. We're not going to commit crime. If the judge says they're coming in, we cannot go against what the court orders. But I'm going to stand fast what is my American given right, and that is to protect my property.

COHEN: And you've had to fight to hold on to this land before. Do you think that that in part is making you even more resistant to let people come onto your property this time around?

Ms. TAMEZ: Well, it's been a long time ago that my ancestors, my parents, my grandparents, faced a loss of land. It was in 1936. And again, it was for safety from the floods of the Rio Grande. And we in the area know about this history, and so we don't have a lot of faith that whatever the government is offering is true.

COHEN: Eloisa Tamez lives on the U.S.-Mexico border near Brownsville, Texas. Thanks for joining us.

Ms. TAMEZ: Okay.

COHEN: We also called the Department of Homeland Security to ask about its plans for the border. Here is what spokesman Russ Knocke said.

Mr. RUSS KNOCKE (Department of Homeland Security): No final decisions have been made on these particular areas of land. What we are seeking is an opportunity to gain access to this private land so that we can make an assessment about whether infrastructure, first and foremost, would be needed.

COHEN: Mr. Knocke also said the border fence is designed to keep out terrorists and illegal immigrants.

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