Photo: Randy Hoeft /Associated Press
After the city last week made the argument that any funding being utilized to survey land for the border wall in the Laredo Sector is congressionally unauthorized, the government has responded by ceasing negotiations on their bulkhead arrangement for the downtown area.
As the Department of Homeland Security plans to build 69 miles of 30-foot-high bollard fencing through Webb and Zapata counties, they have concurrently been working with Laredo officials and private stakeholders to build a less adversarial, more aesthetically-pleasing levee wall-type barrier called a bulkhead through the downtown portion of the city’s border with Mexico.
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Even after the city opposed the government’s right of entry request on their hundreds of acres of riverfront property, they have continued a dialogue with federal officials on the details of the bulkhead.
But then on Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paxton Warner, who is representing the government in their condemnation lawsuit against the city, wrote an email to the City Attorney’s Office regarding the bulkhead.
“... I have advised Border Patrol to cease negotiations with the City regarding the downtown retaining wall until such time as the Court decides the issue of authority and possession,” Warner said.
Attorneys representing private landowners as they fight the border wall have been helping the city develop their argument in the condemnation suit.
If their argument proves sound before a judge, this would not only be an unprecedented win against the federal government in a right of entry case, it would also be an applicable defense for the rest of the landowners fighting against the wall in the Laredo Sector, which spans Webb and Zapata counties.
Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz said he believes the government has responded this way about the bulkhead because they perceive these private attorneys to be “overly helpful” to the city, and want to work with the city only through its own attorneys.
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Saenz is somewhat worried about the bulkhead arrangement falling through, but believes that the government still wants it and still thinks it’s a good fit for Laredo’s downtown.
Meanwhile, DHS on Friday waived 27 federal laws, from the Clean Water Act to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, in order to expedite border wall construction along these 69 miles in the Laredo Sector.
“There is presently an acute and immediate need to construct physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the border of the United States in order to prevent unlawful entries into the United States in the project area,” reads part of the waiver.
With these laws waived, the federal government can skip over environmental impact studies meant to protect wildlife, the Laredo area’s source of drinking water and historic sites.