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Border & Immigration

Biden Breaks Promise To Halt Border Wall Construction, Says Texas Civil Rights Project

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VERÓNICA G. CÁRDENAS FOR TEXAS PUBLIC RADIO
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Border activists and attorneys against border wall construction say President Joe Biden has broken his campaign promise of “not another foot” of wall by taking the land of a Rio Grande Valley family in court.

On Tuesday, the Texas Civil Rights Project, which has been representing landowners in federal lawsuits for their land, said a federal judge granted the federal government’s request to forcibly seize the Cavazos family’s land in Mission.

“We are utterly devastated,” Baudilia Cavazos said in a statement shared by TCRP. “We thought President Joe Biden would protect us. Now we’ve lost our land. We don’t even know what comes next.”

The motion comes despite Joe Biden’s day-one order for wall construction to be paused as his administration conducted a 60-day review of how to tackle previous border wall plans ramped up by the Trump administration.

When asked about the pause, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement it has suspended its efforts to acquire real estate for construction and directed questions to the U.S. Department of Justice.

During his campaign, Biden also said he would withdraw lawsuits against landowners, but has yet to do so.

“Yesterday, we witnessed a betrayal of the Biden Administration’s commitment to end construction of the border wall,” said TCRP Attorney Ricky Garza. “In federal court, the President’s pause on border wall construction is meaningless without immediate action from the DOJ to dismiss these cases.”

TCRP said 140 cases are still active and 114 in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo area have “progressed” since Biden ordered the pause.

Laredo area landowner Melissa Cigarroa told TPR News last week that motions in her court case fighting against the federal government’s request to survey her land for construction had been postponed twice, once in March and then again this month. She’s also still awaiting developments in a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s waiving of environmental and landowner protections.

As the Biden administration continues considering plans, she fears legal proceedings and land seizures could be used to ramp up surveillance technology on border property.

“I kind of worry about some of my neighbors, who maybe could face some type of federal land grab to be able to come to either build roads or, or put in what their version of a virtual wall would be,” she said last week.

TCRP is calling on Biden to reverse course in the taking of the Cavazos’ land.

“The President must immediately revest the land to our clients, instruct the Attorney General to issue a directive to all U.S. Attorneys in the Southwest to dismiss pending border wall cases, and offer meaningful consultations with impacted communities, especially historically disenfranchised groups and indigenous groups,” said Laura Peña, director of TCRPs Racial and Economic Justice Department.

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