U.S. Customs and Border Protection has sent letters to 67 Rio Grande Valley landowners, requesting permission to survey their land as a possible site for a border wall. But congressional leaders believe that it could be decades before any work begins.
The letters to landowners indicate that the federal government is ready to begin construction of a border wall.
In March, Congress approved federal funding for 8 miles of a border wall and 25 miles of a levee wall along a section of the Rio Grande.
One of the areas federal officials will survey is unused land owned by the Rio Grande City Consolidated Independent School District.
The McAllen Monitor newspaper reported that the school district approved the federal request to survey land adjacent to the river.
Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said 38 of the 67 Rio Grande Valley landowners who were sent “request of land entry” letters, have agreed to the survey. But Cuellar said others have required a little more convincing.
“They’re getting some saying, ‘go ahead’, they’re getting others saying, ‘no.’ Border Patrol has been working with Starr County Judge Eloy Vera and other local leader from Starr County to make their communications with area landowner easier to work with them,” Cuellar said.
And, he added, there are some advocating for private property owner rights that would rather settle the matter at the courthouse.
“Even during the George W. Bush administration, when the original fence came up, there’s still hundreds of lawsuits pending,” Cuellar said.
Cuellar added, based on conversations he’s had with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, the federal government is also surveying land for additional 54 miles of a border wall to stretch across Rio Grande Valley’s border with Mexico.
“We were able to stop a levee from stop being built in the Santana Wildlife Refuge, and I’m hoping to do the same along the Bentsen State Park and the Butterfly Center in Hidalgo County,” Cuellar said.
Cuellar, who said construction of a border wall is a an out-dated solution to border security, would like to instead see more technology, personnel and partnerships with international law enforcement groups in an effort to cut down on illegal border crossings and smuggling.