McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Two days after a state judge issued an order to halt construction by a nonprofit organization that’s building a border wall on private property in South Texas, the U.S. government did the same.
On Thursday afternoon, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against the company building a private border wall for We Build The Wall, saying they must cease construction activities on private land south of Mission, Texas.
The U.S. government on Thursday filed the lawsuit on behalf of the United States International Boundary and Water Commission seeking a temporary and permanent injunction against We Build The Wall Inc.; its contractor Fisher Industries; Fisher, Sand and Gravel Co.; and Neuhaus & Sons LLC “to stop the construction of a bollard wall along the bank of the Rio Grande River.”
The federal government’s lawsuit cited not enough information on hydrology specifics and construction plans, saying only “scant details” had been provided to the IBWC.
The documents, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas McAllen Division, came after the IBWC sent Fisher Industries a letter on Nov. 15 ordering the company not to build a border wall until all proposed construction plans are thoroughly approved and vetted by the agency.
IBWC officials said they could not comment on the lawsuit filing and referred all calls to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department, who did not immediately return a request for comment.
We Build The Wall President and Founder Brian Kolfage told Border Report last month that the organization was merely clearing up to 3 miles of riverfront land and that they were not going to put in any steel bollards until their plans were approved by the IBWC. Since then, however, Kolfage and his employee known as “Foreman Mike” has boasted that “the bollards are going in” through various social media posts on Twitter and Facebook.
Border Report has reached out to Kolfage for a comment but he has not returned calls.
Last month, IBWC officials explained that more information was needed from the organization prior to their construction permits being granted.
“The U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission has not received sufficient information from We Build the Wall to make any determinations about their proposed wall construction in the Lower Rio Grande Valley,” Sally Spener, a foreign affairs officer for the IBWC wrote in an email to Border Report in November.
Spener told Border Report previously that more comprehensive hydrology studies were needed to be studied by her agency because of the sensitivity of building on the international waterways, and to ensure there were no violations with a 1970 international water treaty with Mexico.
Florida-based nonprofit raised millions for wall
We Build The Wall is a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Florida that uses online crowdsourcing to raise money to build private border wall segments on private property.
Lance Neuhaus, the landowner, told Border Report last month that he gave the organization permission to be on his lands. Neuhaus owns about six miles of riverfront property south of Mission, Texas.
His land is about half a mile from the National Butterfly Center, which is a 100-acre riverfront refuge where several species of wild butterflies can be found. On Tuesday, the National Butterfly Center’s parent company, North American Butterfly Association, also filed a lawsuit against We Build The Wall and Kolfage, and a state judge granted a temporary injunction ordering We Build The Wall to stop all construction activities on the site.
But Javier Pena, an Edinburg lawyer representing the National Butterfly Center on Wednesday told Border Report that despite the TRO issued Tuesday, there “was still a lot of lights and movement” on the construction staging area on Tuesday night. And he was uncertain whether construction is still continuing on the tract of land that is inaccessible to the public.
The site in question is not accessible to the public, except via boat on the Rio Grande, which Border Report took in November and viewed acres of sugar cane and carrizo cane cleared just feet from the water’s edge.
This story will be updated when more information is available.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.