*This story was updated Friday, May 4 to include a statement from CBP spokesman Carlos A. Diaz.*
Officials with the City of Mission, the Diocese of Brownsville and U.S. Customs and Border Protection met last week to discuss a geographical survey that is planned near La Lomita Chapel, signaling construction of the proposed border wall in that area.
“We met to hear this information and how the project would take place,” Mission City Manager Martin Garza said after the meeting held Thursday April 26. “My understanding is [CBP] is looking to move forward in doing a survey of the property which will consist of determining where property lines are. They already have a right of way, so they can construct there. They wanted to reach out to owners in the area.”
This comes after CBP announced last month that, under the direction of the Secretary of Homeland Security, they have sent letters out to stakeholders and landowners for rights of entry to begin real estate, environmental, and design planning to install gates along the existing border wall, construct new access roads, and to construct a new border wall, according to a CBP press release dated April 16.
“During the 2017 fiscal year CBP was appropriated funding to execute real estate and environmental planning for the design and construction of 35 gates, and to construct new patrol and/or access roads in the RGV,” the release stated. “The 2018 fiscal year appropriation included $445 million to construct up to 25 miles of new border wall in Hidalgo County and $196 million to construct new border wall in Starr County.”
The letters request the landowner sign a Right of Entry for Survey and Site Assessment, authorizing the Government’s entry onto their property, Carlos A. Díaz CBP spokesman said in an email Thursday, adding that CBP plans to meet with individual landowners to provide information on the planned border infrastructure project.
“CBP will continue to work closely with landowners and other impacted stakeholders throughout the entire project,” Diaz said.
Brenda Riojas, a spokeswoman for the diocese, said CBP contacted the diocese last month to regarding the Right of Entry for Survey and Site Assessment on property within the diocese, which encompasses the La Lomita Chapel in Mission and nearby private school Juan Diego Academy.
These requests to do survey work were sent from the Border Patrol and Air and Marine Program Management Office from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Riojas said.
“Our attorney is currently reviewing the request so we can determine how best to proceed,” Riojas said in a statement.
The historic La Lomita Chapel-owned by the diocese and leased by the city- is Mission’s namesake and is located near the Rio Grande River. Many fear the proposed border wall would cut through the area and leave the chapel south of the wall, and the city responded by filing a resolution opposing the wall last August.
“We still stand behind that resolution, I don’t want to say they are building something through that property, but something is being done in that area,” Garza said. “I am assuming they [are contacting] all the property owners along the river to start accommodating whatever process they need to do to move the project forward.”