Saturday, November 29, 2008

This Land Is My Land

That border fence your dollars are building to keep out those illeguls will have cost you a lot even if the next administration gets in and acts like responsible adults. The boondoggle that border officials are describing as a 'speed bump', that innumerable tunnels are now bypassing, may be killed soon. But the insanity continues unabated now.

As Rio Grande Valley property owners gird for hearings that will determine how much the government pays for the land it takes to build the border fence, some are struggling to find a key witness — an appraiser.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is trying to complete 670 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. It will not meet its end-of-year deadline, but has promised to have all sections under contract by then.

Some landowners in the Rio Grande Valley, where the project has been delayed by litigation, hope that a new administration will rethink the controversial project. Earlier this month Customs and Border Protection announced it was putting off three fence sections totaling about 14 miles in the Valley to further study their impact on Rio Grande floodwaters.

Richard Schell, another attorney representing border fence property owners, said he usually turned to the firm of Robinson, Duffy & Barnard LLP in Harlingen for appraisals involving litigation, but the government had them sewn up. So far the firm has been included on the government's witness list in only one case in Cameron County. No one from the firm returned calls for comment.

If appraisal work for these cases costs more than $10,000, Schell said one client would have to forego the outside expert and testify to the value himself.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen extended the deadline for naming experts by a month for a group of cases, including those handled by Villegas and Schell. They are scheduled to go to trial in March if Hanen opts for jury trials rather than a court-appointed land commission to determine compensation.

Bud Campana, a Brownsville appraiser not handling any border fence cases, said he was approached by a landowner this summer but was not comfortable with the job.

"The problem with these appraisals is it's a unique circumstance," Campana said. A big part of an appraisal is comparing the property to the sales of similarly affected pieces of land. But there is still nothing to compare the fence to, he said.

Some of the properties are further complicated by issues involving hunting leases, access to the Rio Grande and the value of land accessible — but in a more limited fashion — on the Mexican side of the fence.

"Based on what I've seen and generally heard I think it's a shame the way some property owners have been run over and treated," Campana said.

Once upon a time this was supposed to 'protect' the residents of this country. Now that the Department of Homeland Security has taken it in hand, it has become an affliction and denial of homeowner rights.

The insane idea of putting fence along the stretch of border that runs from Texas all the way to the Pacific Ocean has already entailed any number of disputes, one of them the proposed division of the campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville by that fence. That DHS idea has been shot down, but not before it went to court and cost us taxpayers to defend the ridiculous plans DHS was proposing.

The adult oversight of competent officials would be a welcome change, especially in the matter of trying to fence in vast spaces of land instead of providing legal channels for jobseekers and employers to use.

As I have said previously, Fence This:

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