Government lawyers are renewing efforts to settle about 90 cases against Texas landowners whose land was seized to build a fence along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border, in a move that one lawyer for landowners believes is a lead-up to a fight over a border wall proposed by President Donald Trump.
A 16-page legal notice that appeared June 7 as a special section in the Brownsville Herald, the newspaper serving Texas' southernmost border city, saying hundreds of landowners had several weeks left to contest how much the government should pay for their land.
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It resembled the routine legal filings that are published regularly in newspapers — except it involved land that the Trump administration might use to build a border wall.
The U.S. Justice Department denies any connection between the legal notice and the possibility of a future border wall. Congress has so far refused to fund new construction, but a wall like the one Trump has promised would likely require hundreds of new court cases to seize private land.
Efren Olivares, a lawyer with the Texas Civil Rights Project who is organizing landowners along the border to fight any wall construction, said the notice was the latest "ramping up of activity" on cases that had long been dormant. In Roma, a border town about 100 miles northwest of Brownsville, at least two landowners have been visited recently by lawyers who want to wrap up their land cases, Olivares said. No fence was built in Roma, though residents there are worried that the government may now be returning.
"This is a precursor for them to take more land for the border wall," Olivares said Thursday.