The federal government is starting to give property back to some landowners in the Rio Grande Valley whose land was seized to construct a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.
These are pieces of property that run along the Rio Grande, and had been seized by the Department of Homeland Security during the second Bush or Trump administrations.
Under President Biden, however, Homeland Security is reviewing those seizures, and returning any parcels that the department doesn’t need.
“For some [landowners], this has been a saga that’s gone on for, you know, more than 10 years,” freelance reporter Dave Hendricks said. “There are cases pending that started in 2008 that revved up during the end of the Bush administration, went nowhere during Obama, came back during Trump and then stopped again under Biden.”
John A. Smith III, an assistant U.S. attorney involved in the lawsuits, told Hendricks that between 14 and 40 properties had been returned by the federal government.
Many other property owners’ cases are still in limbo. Landowners do receive compensation from the government for their property. For some families, that’s created friction over whether to pursue getting their land back in court, or keeping the cash.
“It creates this horrible situation where one member of the family may like the land back. But if another member of the family wants to keep the money, the person who wants to keep the land would have to reimburse the government for all of their distant relatives and whatever money that they were paid. And so those cases, the government seems like it’s going to keep the land,” Hendricks said.