An end to an ongoing court battle in the South Texas border region has left one family feeling upset and confused.
Under the Trump administration, the Cavazos family fought to keep the federal government from seizing their land for the border wall. Then, they were relieved when they heard then-presidential candidate Joe Biden say, “There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration.”
But after Biden was inaugurated, a federal judge ruled that the government could take “immediate possession” of a portion of the Cavazos’ land.
Rey Anzaldua is related to the Cavazos, and he told Texas Standard he transferred his share of ownership of the land to the Cavazos family several months ago. The Anzaldua and Cavazos families’ ties to the land have a long and complicated history.
“My grandmother actually bought this land in the early 1950s,” Anzaldua said.
The family has been fighting with the U.S. government over the land rights for years. And now, to their surprise and disappointment, the fight continues under President Biden.
“We were taking President Biden at his word as a candidate that he would not construct one more foot of wall or confiscate any land,” Anzaldua said.
This morning in Texas, the @JoeBiden Administration seized the property of the Cavazos family for #borderwall construction, after being granted possession via court order. We are outraged. This outcome was avoidable had the administration simply dismissed the case outright. (1/4) pic.twitter.com/x2r8nRbUOX
— Texas Civil Rights Project (@TXCivilRights) April 13, 2021
Anzaldua says it’s unclear why the Biden administration is still pursuing seizure of part of their land.
“They actually haven’t given us a reason other than what the judge said,” he said.
So he’s gone to the media to get the word out, and “to let Biden know that we’re not happy with what has been happening.”
The family hasn’t yet received official documentation about the land seizure, nor has it received any money. It is supposed to get about $350,000 for it. But Anzaldua says the family doesn’t want it.
“We don’t want the money; we want the land,” he said.
For them, that land is a place to raise a few head of cattle and some chickens. Most importantly, it’s riverfront property, and family members lease it out to people for recreation on the water. With loss of property could come loss of income.
“Once they build a wall and the border controls the access to the land … they’re going to have a major problem with their tenants. They’re not going to want to be here. And they’re probably going to lose that income,” he said.
His family is not alone. There are still about 140 other eminent domain cases wrapped up in court. Anzaldua expects other families to lose parts of their land to the federal government for the border wall as well.
He says all his or others’ families can do now is fight for a fair price because preventing seizure of the land seems impossible.
“We cannot fight the government other than for the amount of money that they’re going to give us for the forfeited land. We’d be wasting our money to do anything else,” he said. “It’s unfair and it’s un-American for the government to take our due process away from us.”