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Austin, TX – In a piece published today in the Texas Observer, Gus Bova highlights the first victims of Donald Trump’s border wall, who as soon as February could have their land taken from them by the federal government. Next month, 33 miles of wall are set to be built in Starr and Hidalgo Counties, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, the first “truly new” wall of Trump’s administration and will cut through private land, Bentsen State Park, the National Butterfly Center, and federal wildlife refuge tracts.
This comes in the midst of a government shutdown led by Trump himself, in an effort to build more wall, that would affect large swaths of the Texas/Mexico border and result in the loss of thousands of miles of private land.
Below is an excerpt from Gus Bova’s piece in the Texas Observer. Find the piece in its entirety here.
In Texas, the U.S.-Mexico border is a river, and 95 percent of the adjoining land is privately owned. Anywhere Trump builds his wall in Texas, he’ll have to wrench land from farmers, ranchers, entrepreneurs and deeply rooted Hispanic families. Just downriver from Cavazos’ land, for example, lies a stretch that includes an RV park frequented by Winter Texans, a bar and grill that offers river cruises, and the historic La Lomita chapel. (No construction contract has been awarded there yet, but the feds expect to do so in March, according to court filings.) Upriver, in neighboring Starr County, is a more densely-populated target: the poor and flood-prone border town of Roma, sister city to Ciudad Miguel Alemán. In all, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) sent letters to nearly 600 landowners in Starr and Hidalgo counties last year, advising them of its interest in taking land for the wall.”
A joint project of CBP and the Army Corps of Engineers, the wall is expensive even without the cost of eminent domain litigation. Based on congressional funding, the 33 miles of wall slated for Hidalgo and Starr counties will cost around $19 million per mile. But contracts awarded so far have been even costlier: The 6-mile stretch that includes Cavazos’ land is running taxpayers $24 million per mile. That’s up sharply from a decade ago, when an average mile of border wall cost only $6.5 million, according to the Government Accountability Office. None of those figures account for the legal costs of acquiring land, or future maintenance.
Some Congressional Democrats have turned funding Trump’s wall into a game of semantics, claiming they’re merely financing “border security” or a “border fence.” For border residents and wildlife, that’s a distinction without a difference. Consider what contractors plan to build on Cavazos’ property and elsewhere in Hidalgo County. First, they’ll cut away the southern half of the sloped earthen levee and turn it into a sheer concrete wall some 15 feet high. Then, they’ll place 18-foot-tall steel bollards on top, bringing the barrier to over 30 feet tall in most places. A decade ago, only a few short stretches in Hidalgo County were built that way. Longtime border resident and Sierra Club activist Scott Nicol recently called the structure “a 30-foot-tall concrete and steel monstrosity.