MISSION, Texas (Border Report) — Despite two judges this week issuing temporary restraining orders relating to building a private border wall in South Texas on the Rio Grande, Border Report obtained exclusive video on Friday afternoon showing activity continues.
The video shows tall, thin steel bollards being put into the ground at an angle, dirt being cleared, crews using an augur and heavy equipment, trucks driving up and down the riverfront embankment and workers digging dirt with shovels. It also shows a large swath of land that has been cleared of sugar and carrizo cane since this project first began in mid-November.
Those activities continued on Friday after a state judge on Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order in a lawsuit brought by the National Butterfly Center’s parent organization that strictly prohibits any construction to continue in the flood plain.
The North American Butterfly Association sued the private nonprofit advocacy organization We Build The Wall, the organization’s President and Founder Brian Kolfage, and the landowner, Neuhaus & Sons, earlier this week. The lawsuit cited that construction of a planned 3-mile, 18-foot-high private border wall on the banks of the Rio Grande would be in violation of international water treaties with Mexico, and could cause harm to the National Butterfly Center by precipitating flooding in this flood zone.
The TRO states: “Defendants and/or their agents, servants, employees, attorneys and/or those acting in concert therewith are immediately restrained, from: (a) Constructing any structure or wall on Defendants’ property within the flood zone South of Mission Texas.”
The National Butterfly Center is located south of Mission, a half-mile up river from Lance Neuhaus’ 6-mile long riverfront property, who last month told Border Report that he had given We Build The Wall permission to be on his property.
The TRO issued by State District Judge Keno Vasquez, of Hidalgo County, came one day before a federal judge on Thursday also issued a TRO regarding construction on this same property. The U.S. Justice Department filed the lawsuit Thursday to stop construction on behalf of the U.S. International and Boundary Water Commission (IBWC). The IBWC is in charge of ensuring the 1970 water treaty with Mexico is properly adhered to.
Although the federally-issued TRO dropped the name We Build The Wall, from the order, but did specifically name the organization’s building contractors, Fisher Industries. The TRO issued Thursday by U.S. District Judge Randy Crane also allowed for some exemptions.
Border Report obtained video and photos on Friday from the next-door neighbor’s property, which is owned by Jose Alfredo Cavazos. This 70-year-old retired grocer, who now is wheelchair-bound, expressed shock to see the crews working just feet from his property line.
Border Report has reached out to federal officials as well as to the lawyer in the Butterfly Center’s lawsuit. This story will be updated if comments are received.
The photos above were taken around 1:30 p.m. Friday from the neighboring property with permission of property owner Jose Alfredo Cavazos, 70, a former grocery-store owner whose grandmother in the 1950s purchased nearly 70 acres of riverfront property that has been passed down to him. Cavazos is in a wheelchair but accompanied Border Report through a locked gate to the edge of his property, where activity could be seen on the nearby land. All of the photos below were taken by Border Report’s Sandra Sanchez.
We Build The Wall President and Founder Brian Kolfage told Border Report that his organization was merely “clearing land” and would not allow their contractors to continue construction until they had the IBWC’s approval. However, in several subsequent tweets, Facebook posts and YouTube videos, the Florida-based group — which crowdsources to raise millions of dollars via the Internet to build private border walls — has since talked about the continuing construction.
Border Report reached out to Kolfage Friday but has not heard back. It will update this story if he responds.
“It’s so stupid. It could fall in the river,” said Cavazos of the planned 18-foot-tall private border wall as he watched crews there Friday.
Cavazos said he worries the wall will force water onto his property and could flood it. He leases 35 spots — situated every 50 feet — to tenants who put trailers and other weekend and retreat homes on the banks of the river for recreational use. The property is behind a locked gate.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.
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