Brownsville family voices concern in border wall lawsuit

Another family in a small neighborhood near San Pedro is concerned about granting government contractors access for an entire year to their property where their children play.

Jaime R. Treviño and Rocio Treviño complain in an answer to a federal land condemnation lawsuit against their property that government lawyers won’t tell them how long contractors would be expected to access their backyard for surveying purposes for a border wall.

“ We explained to Mr. Salazar (the government attorney) that we had a major concern for the safety and security of our 5 children because we can’t see ourselves having to tell our children that they can’t go outside at all for the next 12 months because strangers will be in our backyard,” Jaime and Rocio said in the court document.

Salvador J. Castillo and Yvette Arroyo, who live a street over from Jaime and Rocio, expressed similar concerns about government contractors accessing their backyard where their children play.

The federal government has sued them as well, along with two other property owners in Brownsville for a total of four land condemnation lawsuits filed since late May.

The lawsuits were the first indication in Cameron County that U.S. Customs and Border Protection had proposed 19 miles of new border wall here, which CBP announced in small newspaper advertisements soliciting public comments on the location and potential impacts of border barrier projects here.

In the filing by Jaime and Rocio, which they filed of their own accord, they complain that the federal government won’t provide basic information about when — and for how long — contractors would access their property.

They say they need this information for planning purposes.

“ In speaking to the government, we mentioned that the area of concern is a fenced area where we have a 10-year-old family horse,” they said. “We were concerned that gates would be left unlocked or that we would have to relocate our horse in the meantime which would be an additional expense to us.”

That was in December, when CBP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested right of entry signatures.

“ During the conversation, US Government stated although the forms stated 18 months, the surveying and testing would only take about 2-3 days,” they wrote in the filing. “When this was requested in writing, we were called a couple of days later and told that unfortunately it could not be put in writing because the forms were all standard the same.”

The government again tried to get the signatures in March, and once again Jaime and Rocio mentioned their concerns.

“ We asked if we could get an estimated number of days needed in our property in writing so that we could estimate also the amount of expenses we would incur if we needed to relocate our horse,” they said. “This time we were told that the government could not provide us with an estimate.”

The government said it could only provide an estimate once they were on the property despite the fact that CBP contractors have already conducted assessments in the surrounding areas, according to the filing.

“ It will not be easy nor inexpensive for us to relocate Chief (our horse) and we need to have all the information possible for this. We were only told that this information was not available and that they could only give us a 7-day advance notice of when they would start and provide an estimate once they started,” they wrote in the filing. “We were also told that the government would not assist with any expenses to relocate or accommodate our horse.”

In the filing, Jaime and Rocio express how they are perplexed that the government cannot provide basic information on its ongoing plans to build border fencing in their backyard.

“ In addition, the $100 value is not just compensation for the access to our property for the period defined, nor the additional costs that we could incur not only for the horse relocation but also for our children’s safety and space to their own home,” they say. “It is unfair for us to have to allow strangers into our home, risk our children’s safety, and for such an extended period of time.”