Rio Grande Valley Families to Fight the Border Wall in New Orleans

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June 26, 2008            

Contact: Jerome Wesevich, Attorney
Cynthia Martinez, Communications Director

LOS EBANOS, Texas – Two Rio Grande Valley families will be taking their legal fight against the federal government regarding the construction of the border wall to New Orleans, Louisiana.

Represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), the largest provider of legal aid in Texas, the families of Hilaria and Baldomero Muniz and Pamela Rivas are fighting the government’s efforts to take their land to build a wall along the Texas – Mexico border.  The legal battle will continue in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on July 8th.  The Court will convene at 9 am.

The legal battle began when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) filed lawsuits against the families to gain access to their land to begin planning the border wall.  The families have argued that DHS did not follow the legal steps required before initiating the condemnation proceedings.  DHS has sued more than fifty Rio Grande Valley landowners in the border wall process.

According to TRLA attorney Jerome Wesevich,“The government is required to negotiate a reasonable price for the property with these families before they use the court system.  The government’s reasonable price was nothing.”

Both the Muniz and Rivas families have owned property in Los Ebanos for several decades.  Baldomero and Hilaria Muniz worked as migrant farmworkers to save the money to build their house along the Rio Grande River.  They have raised five children in that house and currently use the land to raise goats that they depend on to survive.

“Zero dollars is not a reasonable price for these families’ livelihoods,” added Wesevich.  “The government needs to comply with its own laws.  Right now, its failure to do so is at the expense of hardworking border landowners.”

Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients in a 68-county service area. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and stability of low-income Texas residents by providing high-quality legal assistance and related educational services.

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