March 22, 2008
Some border wall lawsuits dropped

I hope this is a good sign.

The U.S. government dismissed its border fence condemnation lawsuit against the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College on Wednesday and agreed to explore alternatives to a fence with school officials.

The agreement was reached just hours before a hearing was to begin in federal court.

It is no guarantee that the university's golf course and the rest of the threatened 160 acres of campus will not some day be on the Mexican side of a 15-foot fence, but the dismissal order requires the two sides work together.

The government has sued more than 50 South Texas landowners this year for temporary access to survey for the border fence. Many have complained that the access requested was overly broad and sought similar restrictions, but the university is the first to achieve it.

Upon signing the order, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen said he hoped the agreement could be a model for other property owners, specifically the Rio Grande City Consolidated Independent School District, which shared similar concerns about disruptions to its campus and impact on its students during a hearing before Hanen on Monday.


Outside the courthouse, Juliet Garcia, president of UTB-TSC, said some of her intent in rejecting government access before reaching this agreement was to "plow the field" for other property owners.

Under the agreement, the government wins its long-sought access to the campus for six months. The university gets a promise from the government to explore alternatives "to a physical barrier" with the university and to get school consent before even mowing a blade of grass.

Barry Burgdorf, vice chancellor and general counsel for the University of Texas System, said the university will invest its own resources in developing alternatives to the fence. Neither Burgdorf nor the court order specify what those alternatives might be.

Good for UT-Brownsville. If this can serve as a model for other entities to get improved treatment from the feds, so much the better. South Texas Chisme is cynical about this, but I choose to be optimistic. We could use a little positive news here. I do agree that nothing about this makes the border fence a good idea, but in the event we can't undo the legislation that authorized it, anything we can do to minimize its negative impact is a boon.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 22, 2008 to National news