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Court orders Texas property owners to open land for US-Mexico border fence

[JURIST] US District Judge Andrew Hanen of the US Southern District of Texas [official website] Monday released a Friday order directing 10 property owners in Cameron County, Texas [official website] to provide the federal government access to their land for 180 days so it can begin surveying for a 670-mile fence along the US-Mexico border [JURIST news archive]. The federal government had asked Hanen to rule on the case without informing the property owners, a permissible move under eminent domain law, but the judge ordered that the owners should be alerted before the hearing held last Friday. On January 16, in contrast, US Western District of Texas [official website] Judge Alia Moses Ludlum ordered [JURIST report] the City of Eagle Pass, Texas [official website] to temporarily turn over 233 acres of its land to the federal government for the border fence project without providing the city with any notice. Earlier this month, US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] officials said DHS is preparing over 100 court cases [JURIST report] against landowners along the US-Mexico border who have refused to allow construction of the border fence on their properties. The Cameron County and Eagle Pass cases are the first DHS lawsuits to have been decided by a judge. AP has more.

US President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act of 2006 [PDF text; JURIST report] in October 2006. The legislation authorizes the construction of approximately 700 miles of fencing along the 2,000-mile US-Mexican border. Critics of the fence include locals in border communities, who feel that a border fence could interfere with irrigation, harm wildlife, and disrupt Mexican consumers and investors that positively contribute to the local economy. In May 2007, the International Boundary and Water Commission [official website] said that construction of the fence could violate a boundary treaty [JURIST report] between the United States and Mexico.

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