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(b) (6) (b) (6) (b) (6)
RE: Border Fence NewsClips, 18 Mar Tuesday, March 18, 2008 3:47:45 PM
Good afternoon (b) (6) I just spoke with (b) and we want to be prepared for any media calls on the subject. (6) Did you find out anything from the Sector?
(b) (6) Secure Border Initiative U.S. Customs and Border Protection (b) (6) For more information about the Secure Border Initiative, visit www.cbp.gov/sbi or contact us at SBI_info@dhs.gov.
-----Original Message----From: (b) (6) Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2008 7:13 AM To: (b) (6) Subject: Re: Border Fence NewsClips, 18 Mar I found out about it late yesterday also... I have reached out to EPT to get a better feel for it after reading that article. Yesterday, EPT said that they had actually met with the Mayor before and this brief was for the council. Not sure if this is foot stomping to see if the neigbors are listening or what..... (b) (6) ----- Original Message ----From: (b) (6) To: (b) (6) Sent: Tue Mar 18 07:07:45 2008 Subject: Re: Border Fence NewsClips, 18 Mar Who was in the loop re: the El Paso City Council briefing for temp access? I was unaware of the issue until late yesterday. The Mayor complains here about lack of info and a cancelled briefing due to HQ shutting down Sector. Any help on this would be appreciated. ----- Original Message ----From: (b) (6) To: (b) (6) Sent: Tue Mar 18 06:15:32 2008 Subject: FW: Border Fence NewsClips, 18 Mar Clips regarding yesterday’s events.
Secure Border Initiative U.S. Customs and Border Protection
For more information about the Secure Border Initiative, visit www.cbp.gov/sbi <http://www.cbp.gov/sbi> or contact us at SBI_info@dhs.gov <mailto:SBI_info@dhs.gov> . Texas landowners say government never negotiated access for fence 09:08 PM CDT on Monday, March 17, 2008 Associated Press McALLEN, Texas – Several South Texas property owners testified in federal court Monday that government officials seeking access to land to survey for the border fence did not try to negotiate before suing. Offers of $100 compensation for the temporary access to their land along the Rio Grande only came after government lawyers started the condemnation process, property owners in Hidalgo and Starr counties said Monday. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who has held several hearings on cases in Cameron County, said he would rule as soon as possible on more than a dozen government lawsuits that are the first in Hidalgo and Starr counties. But the three-hour hearing Monday, where witnesses were called to recount their conversations with government officials and lawyers parsed the definition of "negotiate," was exactly the sort of legal wrangling the government hoped to avoid. By the end of the year, Congress has demanded that there be 670 miles of fencing along the border with Mexico to slow illegal immigration. Dozens of South Texas landowners have provided a bump in that road by refusing to grant access to their property for fence surveys. The government sued them and now finds itself on defense, filing affidavits and arguing that it tried to negotiate with landowners before suing them. The Justice Department has sued more than 50 property owners in Texas this year – a total of 75 along the whole U.S.-Mexico border. A recent ruling from Hanen ordered the government to first try to negotiate access with landowners. On Monday, Hanen indicated the bar was fairly low for what could constitute negotiation and allow the eminent domain cases to proceed. "If I offer you $100 and you say 'No way,' then at least there's been negotiation the court can move on," Hanen said. Hanen does not have jurisdiction to consider the amount of compensation. He is looking for evidence of an attempt at back-and-forth between the government and property owners. Hanen also said that asking a property owner to sign a waiver under threat of condemnation "doesn't sound like negotiation to me." Thelma Ramey, chief financial officer for the Rio Grande City Consolidated Independent School District, said she was unaware of any compensation offer from government officials who had appeared at a school board meeting and followed up with phone calls and a letter. "The word 'negotiation' has never been communicated to us," Ramey said. "I was not aware we could negotiate." The government wants to survey the school district's 132-acre campus that extends to the Rio Grande in Starr County. District Superintendent Roel Gonzalez said the school board refused to vote on granting access because they wanted more details on what access would mean. The district's administrative offices share the campus with elementary and middle schools and more than 1,000 students. A wildlife refuge on part of
the property near the river is used as a living classroom. "When it comes to the children, I have to worry beforehand," Gonzalez said. Justice Department lawyers seemed to have already adopted the lessons from Hanen's ruling in the case of Eloisa Tamez, a Cameron County landowner. After a month of deliberation, Hanen sided with the government on virtually every point in that case, but gave them two weeks to either present evidence of bona fide attempts at negotiation with Tamez or begin those negotiations. In the case against the school district government lawyers were prepared avoid similar delays by offering evidence of their attempts to negotiate access. They filed an affidavit from a real estate official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers attesting to multiple attempts made to discuss the issue with the school district. Celestino Gallegos, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid representing two landowners Monday, argued that bona fide negotiations had to involve some discussion of compensation. He said since the government did not enter negotiations with his clients before suing, the cases should be dismissed so negotiations can properly begin. The Department of Homeland Security has won access in 35 of the 75 cases filed along the border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Most of the nearly 500 property owners in the fence's path gave voluntary access to their land and as of Feb. 21, 303 miles of fencing had been built. Hanen will hear two more cases in Brownsville Wednesday, including one against the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. Judge hears border fence complaints Landowners: Government never negotiated Jeremy Roebuck <mailto:email@example.com> The Monitor March 17, 2008 - 7:34PM McALLEN - More than 25 Hidalgo and Starr county landowners aren't likely to find support from the courts to block border fence surveys on their properties. During a court hearing Monday, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen indicated he would likely stand by a ruling he made in a similar case earlier this month when deciding whether to grant the government's request to access their lands. The judge previously determined the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ultimately has the right to condemn the property under federal law, provided that negotiations on the terms of surveying access take place. Making that precedent clear, Hanen started Monday's hearing by urging the landowners and their lawyers to limit their arguments to pertinent issues only. "The best way to describe why we're here is to describe why we're not here," he said. "We're not here to debate the merits of the fence." Still, several of the property owners the federal government sued told the court they feared the surveys could irreparably damage their property. G. Allen Ramirez, an attorney representing the Rio Grande City school district over a 132-acre tract, said the process could disrupt class schedules, damage taxpayer property and endanger a wildlife refuge on the plot. "There have been no discussions at all between the school district and the government on how to ensure minimal disruption," he said. Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Border Patrol began contacting landowners last spring seeking access to survey their land and test its suitability for fencing stretches.
Current plans call for 370 miles of border fence and 300 miles of vehicle barriers along the southern U.S. border by the end of this year. But earlier this month, representatives from the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that "keeping on schedule will be challenging because of ... difficulties in acquiring rights to border lands." "It is the commitment of the government to be minimally intrusive," said Andy Goldfrank, who is with the U.S. Justice Department's land acquisition division, on Monday. Pamela Rivas, however, insisted the government had never tried to negotiate access with her. She met with Border Patrol agents in December to discuss surveys on her property near the Los Ebanos ferry, but said she was only given a form that promised $100 for 12 months of access. A month later, she was sued. "They were very vague about what they would do," she said. "They didn't say a whole lot." Government attorneys said that representatives had previously discussed terms with Rivas' father, who she described as a man in his 80s suffering from "early stages of dementia." Baldomero Muñiz, too, said he had minimal contact with government agents before his case ended up in court. An elderly goat herder who also owns land near Los Ebanos, Muñiz said Border Patrol agents handed him a form to sign. But since he is unable to read in English or Spanish, he was not sure what it said. "It was basically a form letter that said, ‘Sign this or get sued,'" said his attorney, Celestino Gallegos. Muñiz didn't sign it because he did not understand the content. On March 7, Hanen ruled in a similar case that the government was entitled to access a Cameron County landowner's property but ordered further negotiations between the parties. "There is contradictory and insufficient evidence before this court as to whether there has been bona fide efforts to negotiate," Hanen's 32-page opinion states. Since many of the legal issues involved in Monday's cases are similar to that suit, the judge indicated he intended to rule quickly. He is also expected to hear two more cases in Brownsville this week, including one the federal government filed against the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. At Council, Border Barrier Details, and a Federal Request by David Crowder Newspaper Tree City Council is to hear details about a higher, more tightly woven fence within city limits, and consider federal requests for access to build the fence. Posted on March 17, 2008 El Paso Mayor John Cook said the City Council could refuse to give the U.S. Corps of Engineers permission today to cross city property and establish a staging area to start building a new border fence. The 15- to 18-foot-high, reinforced steel mesh fence is to start in the Ascarate Park area and go 56 miles along the Rio Grande to two miles east of the port of entry at Fort Hancock, said Doug Mosier, the spokesman for Customs and Border Protection. Irritated, Cook said that was more information than he had been able to get from the agency. He said a briefing he was to have gotten about the project Monday from Bureau of Customs and Border Protection officials fell through because “they didn’t have permission from Washington to tell us what they were doing.” Cook said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and CBP Commissioner Ralph Basham had both assured him that the agency would seek input from communities “before any fencing decisions are made.”
The fact that the press had received more information about the project than he had was, Cook said, “pretty weird.” Federal officials plan to brief City Council on the project and will be seeking the city’s OK today to cross city land to a planned staging area for the project on International Boundary and Water Commission property. Cook said they may be in for a surprise. “The access they’re asking for would allow them to store property on IBWC land by the Zaragosa Bridge,” he said. “The question we’ve asked them is what it is exactly that they’re doing? Is it something that some on the City Council would be opposed to? Is it a new wall or replacing a replacing wall? But they haven’t answered the questions. “Depending on what it is that they’re proposing to do, I could see some members of City Council supporting a denial.” The City Council meeting starts at 9 a.m. Tuesday on the second floor of City Hall at Durango and W. Missouri. It will be broadcast and then replayed at 7 p.m. Tuesday on cable Channel 15. Council meetings are also streamed live via Internet at www.ci.el-paso.tx.us/realplayer.asp Information on the agenda is available at www.elpasotexas.gov or 541-4010.
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