Texas Indigenous Property Owners Defend Refusal to Make Room for Border Wall

Excerpt from a press release issued by a coalition of “individual property owners, their legal representatives along with Native American and border community leaders” announcing a Jan. 7 telephonic media conference “to announce their intent to fight the Department of Homeland Security’s threatened seizure of their property along the United States-Mexico border.” The press release was forwarded to TCRR by Jay J. Johnson Castro, Sr.

“Our lands are not for sale. The U.S. government must stop its illegal attempts to intimidate us. The Department of Homeland Security cannot take away our homes and neighborhoods for border militarization,” declared Eloisa Tamez, a member of the Lipan Apache people and Basque-Ibero descendents living in the Lower Rio Grande region.

Mrs. Tamez is part of a coalition of Indigenous peoples and border community groups that are calling on the Department of Homeland Security to stop confiscating their private property and lands along the U.S.-Mexico border. DHS plans to use this property to build a border wall on it.

Mrs. Tamez and other owners whose properties abut the border are threatened by federal agents’ unwelcomed entry at any time into their properties and homes and the increased militarization of their neighborhoods. They are calling on DHS to stop its intimidation tactics and respect their property and human rights.

Last month, DHS Secretary Chertoff stated DHS’s intent to seize privately-held property in south Texas if property owners fail to cooperate with government efforts to erect the border wall, approved by Congress last year as part of a strategy to eliminate unauthorized migration and drug trafficking.

DHS presented waivers requesting that the landowners grant DHS personnel access to their property for a twelve-month period in order to conduct surveys for the intended construction project.

The property owners were informed that if they do not voluntarily allow the federal agents on their property, the U.S. government will file a law suit so that DHS authorities can have unimpeded access to private land, despite the owners’ opposition. DHS has stated that it will seize property even without the consent of landowners if necessary to complete the construction of the border fence.

Many landowners, as well as civic leaders and human rights activists, oppose the U.S. government’s plans to allow federal law enforcement agents access to private property. The government’s demands and aggressive tactics are in conflict with settled rights of private property ownership and are particularly disconcerting to the Indigenous peoples’ communities impacted by this undertaking.

The Texas communities along the international boundary zone are largely made up of Native Americans and of land grant heirs who have resided on inherited properties for hundreds of years. DHS plans to complete the Texas portions of the fence before the end of the 2008 calendar year. DHS has already built walls along much of the California and Arizona international boundary zone with Mexico despite opposition from the government of Mexico.

In Arizona, the wall cuts through Native American ceremonial crossing areas as well as through a national wildlife park. Indigenous communities are calling on the U.S. government to stop this land grab and respect the rights of migrants, Americans and indigenous peoples at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Contacts for the press release are:

Peter Schey, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law

Margo Tamez, Hleh Pai Dne (Lipan Apache) and Jumano Apache

Arnoldo García, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Scheduled speakers for the teleconference include:

Enrique Madrid, Jumano Apache community member, Texas Historical Commission, Redford, TX

Gabriel Carrasco, Chief of the Jumano Apache, Redford/El Paso, TX

José Matus, Yaqui, director of Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras, Tucson, AZ

Rosie Molano Blount, Chiricahua Apache, Del Río, TX

Michael Paul Hill, San Carlos Apache, AZ

Ofelia Rivas, Tohono O’odham, AZ, founder of O’odham Voice Against the Wall

Eloisa Tamez, Hleh Pai Nde, TX (Lipan Apache-Basque-Ibero)

Margo Tamez, Hleh Pai Nde, TX; (Lipan Apache-Jumano Apache) Moderator

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