La Joya City Commission refuses to approve border wall survey, prepares for lawsuit

This article originally appeared in the Friday May 31, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.

Snubbed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the La Joya City Commission responded in kind Wednesday.

After reviewing a letter from Customs and Border Protection — which requested permission to survey city property but refused to discuss the matter during a City Commission meeting — commissioners tabled the request.

Told that Customs and Border Protection may respond with a lawsuit, Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas appeared unfazed.

He turned to City Attorney Kennedy Salinas.

“So, Kennedy, get ready,” Mayor Salinas said.

The dispute pits La Joya, which owns about 16 acres of land near the intersection of Military Highway and Garza Avenue, against Customs and Border Protection, which wants to survey the property.

“CBP anticipates that the FY19 appropriation will fund border wall system in this location,” according to a statement released by Customs and Border Protection, which referenced federal Fiscal Year 2019. “The border wall system is planned to include steel bollard wall, patrol road, and associated technology. Planning is currently underway. CBP will consult with the impacted stakeholders on the final alignment and design.”

Customs and Border Protection sent the city a “Right-of-Entry For Survey and Site Assessment,” asking for permission to survey the property. Along with the form, Customs and Border Protection sent La Joya a map showing a 2.42-acre tract labeled “RGV-MCS-1302.”

The tract runs parallel to Military Highway and appears to show where Customs and Border Protection plans to build the border wall.

La Joya may build a sewer plant on the property, Mayor Salinas said, adding that he wanted someone from Customs and Border Protection to discuss the matter during a City Commission meeting.

“The Border Patrol stands ready to meet with you and other city officials as part of their outreach program, but a public forum such as a city council meeting is not the venue by which they would conduct their outreach,” Hyla Head, a realty specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, wrote to Mayor Salinas on May 17.

Three days later, Customs and Border Protection sent a final warning to La Joya.

“As of April 2, 2019, we have not received your permission to access the property, and because the Government has an immediate need to enter your property to conduct the necessary surveys, we have determined that it will be necessary to file an action in federal district court to allow us to enter for these purposes for a limited period of 12 Months,” according to the letter dated May 20 and signed by Loren Flossman, who is described as the Wall Program Portfolio Manager for the U.S. Border Patrol Program Management Office Directorate. “We anticipate seeking this temporary right of entry within the next 90 days in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas.”

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