Friday, April 17, 2009

Tamez loses legal battle to stop DHS building border fence

Rio Grande Guardian
April 17, 2009

McALLEN, April 16 - U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville on Thursday issued an order granting the federal government's request to condemn the ancestral land of the Tamez family.

University of Texas at Brownsville Professor Eloisa Tamez has gained international acclaim for her efforts to stop a border wall being built on her 0.26 acres of land in rural El Calaboz, Cameron County.

Tamez is Lipan Apache. Her land has been in the family since before Spanish colonization. It was designated to them through Spanish Crown law. Now, her supporters say, it is in the possession of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Tamez could not be reached for comment at press time. However, she did predict the government would eventually take her land in an interview with the Guardian in January, 2008.

“I just believe that eventually I will probably lose the land, not that I will quit fighting,” Tamez said.

Click here to watch Tamez video.

Tamez has fought the border wall plan in federal court for over a year, arguing that the government failed to communicate its plans.

Attorney Abner Burnett, of the Texas Civil Rights Project in San Juan, represented Tamez.

“DHS is acting like bullies,” Burnett told the Guardian, when the lawsuit was filed. “They had the opportunity to come and talk to these people and say here’s what we would like to do. They could have met in a coffee shop. They did not do that. They said, we are coming on your land and if you don’t sign a waiver we’re going to sue you.”

Tamez won a partial battle last year when Hanen ordered the Department of Homeland Security to enter into meaningful negotiates with her. In his ruling, Thursday, Hanen said he was satisfied the government had negotiated in good faith.

Under the ruling, the government must pay Tamez $13,500 before the 15 to 18 feet high fence can be erected. The ruling said seizure of the land is worth $8,500 and the distress caused to the family is worth $5,000.

Ironically, Tamez, heard about Hanen’s order while participating in the Western Social Sciences Association (WSSA) Conference in Albuquerque, where she was participating in a Three part panel: “Indigenous People's and the U.S.-Mexico Border: Militarization, Resistance, and Rights.”

She is with a group of colleagues from several bi-national indigenous border communities and experts on militarization and the impact of the border wall. “I am captive in my own land,” Tamez told the conference.

“The Tamez family reports that this is an urgent situation which needs international attention and wide press coverage,” said Wendy Kenin, a friend of the Tamez family.

Kenin said Eloisa Tamez will be available for interview between panel discussions on militarization of the border and resistance on the border at the WSSA conference on Friday.

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