RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) — A family that has been in Mission, Texas, for generations found out this week that their two-year-long dispute has ended with them losing more than six acres of land to the United States government.
The Cavazos family, who said their family origins began over 100 years ago in the Mission area, said they saw their land rights handed over Tuesday after a ruling from a federal judge.
“This President promised not one more foot of wall or land forfeiture, and look what happened … land forfeiture,” said Reynaldo Anzaldua, a member of the Cavazos family. “What’s coming next? A wall?”
According to the ruling, the U.S. said the reason the property was taken was “to construct, install, operate, and maintain roads, fencing, vehicle barriers, security lighting, cameras, sensors, and related structures designed to help secure the United States/Mexico border within the State of Texas.”
The ruling also said the U.S. paid $347,887 in compensation for the land.
The family’s land sits on the Rio Grande where multiple tenants who rent the property can look across to Mexico. Anzaldua said they were hoping the end of the Trump administration would also mean the end of border wall construction.
“Surprise, surprise. A federal judge just forfeited six-and-a-half acres of the Cavazos property,” said Anzaldua.
The exact amount of land being forfeited is 6.584 acres, which includes an area where a barn sits at the entrance to the property. Jose “Fred” Cavazos, the landowner, is 71 years old and disabled but says the government is putting it on him to clear the land.
“I’m going to be left alone to take that barn down,” said Cavazos.
Another issue is that Cavazos makes part of his living from renting land to tenants, and the family worries that they will not be able to enter the property anymore.
“Are these tenants going to be able to get into this property,” asked Anzaldua.
The Texas Civil Rights Project has represented the family since the beginning of their trials and says there has been no transparency from the government.
“I think immediate transparency would be really nice,” said community outreach coordinator, Roberto Lopez. “Are they going to continue with construction or are they not? It’s really that simple.”
Lopez also said the wall is built on a levy that is supposed to protect the area from hurricane flooding, posing a threat to the environment.
“We want people to know that the Biden administration promised to no confiscate their land and that just happened, so my role is to make sure that the administration knows we are going to hold them to the fire to keep their promise,” he said.
Biden’s moratorium on border wall construction ended on March 21, but the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, has talked about “filling the gaps” in the unfinished border wall.
“The Cavazos family property is one of those gaps,” said Lopez. “And then right here to the east, right behind me, is construction that was taking place right before the Biden administration pause.”
Five months ago, there was no border wall on the east side of the levy in front of the Cavazos’s property, but now there is.
According to the TCRP, there are 140 families in South Texas that are facing potential land condemnation, but the Cavazos said it is more than just land to them. It’s their home.
“I’ve been here all my life — 71 years. I was born here in Mission, and I was raised here. Our father taught us how to fish here,” said Cavazos. “We’re trying to fight it, but it’s going to be hard.”