The Border Fence And Property Rightsby Doug Mataconis
It seems that the push for a fence on the southern border of the United States is about to become a really big theft:
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 Department of Homeland Security official said yesterday.
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 that they had 30 days to comply or face court action.
Some opponents of the fence say the government is violating the rights of indigenous landowners, descendants of American Indians and others who claim ancestral rights to the land or whose families were awarded property through Spanish land grants.
One holdout, Eloisa Garcia Tamez, 72, owns three acres in El Calaboz, Tex., about 12 miles west of Brownsville, a city at the state’s southernmost tip. Tamez said her property was part of a Spanish land grant and her grandfather was Lipan Apache, a tribe not officially recognized by Washington but known to have existed in Texas and Mexico.
“I’m waiting for whatever they’ve got coming and I’m not going to sign. I’m not,” Tamez said.
I’m not a border fence fan to begin with — to me it seems like more of a gimmick than a solution. But if the only way to build it is to violate people’s property rights, then I say scrap the whole thing.