Many of the deadlines have passed for landowners on the Southwest border to give the government access to their land to determine the location of the U.S. - Mexico border fence, reports the Associated Press. In response, the government is pursuing court orders to force the landowners to allow government workers to assess their land for the fence's construction.
The government is readying 102 cases to gain entry to lands along the border owned by private individuals, local governments and others. A deadline for many of the owners to grant entry passed Monday or should expire in a matter of days.
Of the total cases, 71 are against Texas landowners, 20 against Californians and 11 against Arizona landowners. No cases are expected against New Mexico landowners.
The Homeland Security Department wants to build 370 miles of fencing and 300 miles of vehicle barriers by the end of the year. It says some of the properties may not be needed, but it needs to assess which ones it may need to purchase or seize through eminent domain for the fence or other barriers.
One landowner, 72-year-old Eloisa Garcia Tamez, told the AP, "I'm waiting for whatever they've got coming and I'm not going to sign. I'm not." Tamez, along with other border landowners, argue their land is indigenous and ancestral, the result of Spanish land grants, and therefore the U.S. government has no right to them.
Michael Chertoff warned the landowners that the time for talk will end soon. "The door is still open to talk if people want to engage with us, if they have some alternative ideas. But it's not open for endless talk. We do need to get moving on this proposition," he said.
President Bush signed into law last year the bill that greenlit the construction of a 700-mile long border fence on the U.S.-Mexico border to defend against illegal immigration and the fear that terrorists will exploit the United States' permeable borders to enter the United States.