A state district judge on Wednesday signed a temporary injunction on contractors building a section of border wall near the Eli Jackson Cemetery, records show.
District Judge Israel Ramon Jr. signed an order preventing Southwest Valley Constructors Co. from working in the vicinity of the historically designated cemetery south of Pharr until a scheduled hearing set for Sept. 29, records show.
The original complaint, filed Sept. 15 on behalf of more than 20 members and relatives of the Singleterry family, asked the court to “restrain defendant from continuing such destructive construction of the roadway and border wall or barrier within 100 feet from the historic Eli Jackson Cemetery,” the document states.
The descendants of those buried at the cemetery claim they would suffer irreparable harm if defendants are not restrained from erecting the border wall and accompanying road. Additionally, they would be harmed if the contractors were not restrained from “constructing the road parallel to the border wall while this lawsuit is pending,” the document states.
“The natural condition of the historic burial plots and the Eli Jackson Cemetery would be destroyed by the road that would infringe on the cemetery,” the court filing states. “The Eli Jackson Cemetery requires lateral support from both sides where there has been excavation and digging for the border wall, water drainage pipes, and its roadway.”
They claim that the border wall and patrol road would prevent them and the general public from reasonably accessing the site.
The filing also claims the government is in violation of the “takings clause” of the “U.S. Constitution as the border wall is currently being constructed in violation of Plaintiff’s property rights and without due compensation,” the document states.
Designated as a historical site in 2005, the cemetery is home to more than 50 graves, the complaint states.
The complaint claims the contractors’ negligent construction, which includes digging, use of heavy machinery, scraping of the land, leveling of the land, and other work, has caused “burial plots to begin to sink,” the record shows.
The order restrains Southwest Valley Constructors from “continued construction, excavation scraping, leveling of land, installing drainage pipes, digging and removal of dirt, or any construction activity conducted within 100 feet from the immediate outside perimeter of the Eli Jackson Cemetery,” the 20-page complaint states.
Separate but similarly the Ramirez family is currently fighting the U.S. government in federal court to stop construction for the same area just to the west; the Jackson Ranch Church & Cemetery. That lawsuit remains pending.
Relatives of the Jackson Ranch Church & Cemetery, founded in 1857, have been publicly fighting against the construction of a border wall since September 2018.
After a year of public pressure on the government, with help from members of Congress, a bill passed in December 2019 secured language that would prevent a border wall from cutting through the historical sites.
Despite their efforts, wall construction around the land has resumed and is once again threatening the sanctity of the sites Sylvia Ramirez and her brother Ramiro Ramirez hope to protect.
The Jackson Ranch & Cemetery was certified by the commission in 1983 while the Eli Jackson Cemetery was certified in 2005. Veterans from multiple U.S. battles are buried at the sites, including Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean War to name a few.
The temporary restraining order is set to expire on Sept. 29 when a hearing is set, records show.