Judge Clears Way for Construction of Private US-Mexico Border Fence

Construction workers look over a section of newly constructed border wall on Nov. 21, 2019, south of Donna, Texas./The Monitor via AP)

(CN) – Three miles of border wall will soon go up on private land on the banks of the Rio Grande after a federal judge on Thursday lifted an injunction, allowing a construction firm to move forward with the project.

With the landowner’s blessing, Fisher Industries in November brought in tractors to the property in Hidalgo County, Texas, clear-cut brush from the Rio Grande to 40 yards inland and graded the riverbank.

The project is being partially funded by We Build the Wall, a Florida nonprofit whose online fundraisers championing President Donald Trump’s efforts to wall off the U.S.-Mexico border have raised $25 million.

Fisher Industries planned to quickly pour concrete and install a bollard wall made up of closely grouped steel slats, but the federal government sued to stop the project last month.

The government claimed in court filings that Fisher Industries had not submitted an adequately detailed hydraulic study with the International Boundary and Water Commission and that its failure to do so violated a 1970 U.S.-Mexico treaty prohibiting any projects that “cause deflection or obstruction of the normal flow of the Rio Grande.” The river is the boundary between the two countries in Texas.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane, a George W. Bush appointee, issued an injunction stopping any structures from going up on Dec. 5. But he lifted it Thursday, finding the government had not provided sufficient evidence to show the project would violate any treaty.

The North Dakota company’s owner Tommy Fisher said after the hearing his crews will start pouring concrete Sunday and could install all the steel posts in a week, the Associated Press reported.

Fisher is eager to prove his company, which has already landed a $400 million government contract to build a section of border wall across an Arizona wildlife refuge, can build border barriers more efficiently than the government.

The National Butterfly Center, whose 100-acre refuge borders the construction site property, also sued to block the project. Crane also denied the center’s request for a restraining order on Thursday, finding its claims that the project would redirect the Rio Grande and damage vegetation in its refuge were “highly speculative.”

The wall will be placed closer to the river than existing border barriers in Texas. The government built 48 miles of fencing atop a Rio Grande levee in 2008 and 2009 and broke ground on three other levee wall projects totaling 27 miles in 2019.

We Build the Wall’s founder, Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage, took to Twitter on Thursday to tout the ruling and taunt the government and butterfly center.

“WE WIN! The Federal Judge lifted the TRO. We can build in the floodplain, this will change the game,” he wrote. “They couldn’t prove a single claim in court… it was embarrassing! Hell I’m embarrassed for them,” he added.

The Texas project will add a second notch in We Build the Wall’s belt. In 2019 it built nearly a mile of border wall on private land in Sunland Park, New Mexico, 10 miles west of El Paso, despite opposition from Sunland Park’s mayor.

It’s been a big week for Trump’s campaign promise of a “big, beautiful wall” across the border.

The Fifth Circuit on Wednesday lifted a nationwide injunction that had blocked the Trump administration from diverting $3.6 million from military construction projects to fund 175 miles of border wall.

The 2-1 ruling, with two Republican-nominated judges in the majority, gives the government the green light for 11 projects in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

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