I'm sure this will be well received in South Texas.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is giving Texas landowners opposed to a border fence one last chance to allow access to their land before he takes court action against them, a Texas senator said today.
Sen. John Cornyn said letters from the Department of Homeland Security are expected to go out Friday. But for those who refuse access, the department would likely seek a court order to enter the property, he said.
"He assured me that negotiations would continue and his hope is the vast majority of these cases could be resolved without litigation, maybe in handful of cases litigation would be required," he said.
Some landowners along the border have opposed government plans to build fencing to curb illegal immigration on the Texas-Mexico border.
"All that will do is fire people up more down here," John McClung, president of the Texas Produce Association, said of the impending letters.
"Nothing makes a landowner more unhappy than the idea of condemnation of land, the idea of being forced to turn land over to government," McClung said.
Several members of the group could lose access to the Rio Grande, which they rely on for irrigating crops, or to rich farm land that abuts the river.
Opponents have criticized the government for failing to keep them fully informed on fence plans and refusing to listen to residents' proposals for alternatives to the fence. Others say the fence is a waste of taxpayers' money and will hurt border economies.
Cornyn said Chertoff told him about 40 landowners have refused to provide access to their land. Of the total, 110 have not responded or can't be located and 258 have given the government the access, a congressional official familiar with the statistics said on condition of anonymity because the Homeland Security Department had not released them.
About 127 miles of land are being considered for the fencing and about 15 miles of that is on property where the government cannot get access, the aide said.