Barrio de Colores Residents Claim Lawsuit Victory with Changes to Carrizo Cane Removal Project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT
Israel M. Reyna, Attorney
956-718- 4600
ireyna@trla.org

LAREDO, Texas – July 2, 2010 – A settlement reached in a federal environmental lawsuit brought by residents of Barrio de Colores against the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) over the Carrizo cane removal project will significantly reduce the health and environmental risks to the local community, according to Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA).

“The settlement is a real victory because the project has been reformed. Aerial spraying of herbicide is eliminated and the burning of Carrizo cane is limited to a site far from Barrio de Colores,” explained TRLA attorney Israel M. Reyna who has been representing the community.

Barrio de Colores sued Customs and Border Protection in March under the National Environmental Policy Act over the removal project.  In the lawsuit, the residents argued that CBP failed to assess the environmental impacts of the plan, failed to consider reasonable alternatives, and failed to notify the public about the risks.

“We live real close to the river,” added Moises Flores, a chief organizer of Barrio de Colores and long-time resident. “When we heard that the Border Patrol was going to remove Carrizo cane by spraying herbicide, we all became alarmed. We had to do something to protect our families and homes from all of this. Thank God, we succeeded.”

As a result of the settlement, the Border Patrol will be holding a town hall meeting with neighborhood residents on Wednesday, July 7 at 7 p.m. at the San Francisco Javier Catholic Church hall located in Barrio de Colores.  At the meeting, Border Patrol will have twelve project-related information stations that residents may visit to learn more about the project.

Barrio De Colores’ victory celebration would not have come without the help of information residents received from activists with the Rio Grande International Student Center (RGISC), a local environmental justice group, about the potential adverse impacts that the Carrizo cane plan would have on them.

Added Jay Johnson-Castro, Executive Director of RGISC, “This is a win-win situation where an environmental organization has been instrumental in facilitating cooperation between citizens and their government.  The end result has been the prevention of environmental harm, a better informed citizenry and, a closer working relationship between the government and the community.”

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 civil legal assistance and related educational services.

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