Texas Butterfly Sanctuary Loses Challenge to Border Wall

A bend in the Rio Grande is viewed from a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter on patrol over in Mission, Texas, on July 24, 2014. The U.S. government is preparing to begin construction of more border walls and fencing in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, likely on federally owned land set aside as wildlife refuge property. Heavy construction equipment is supposed to arrive starting Monday. A photo posted by the nonprofit National Butterfly Center shows an excavator parked on its property. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Coinciding with drastic measures by the White House to build a wall on the southern border, a federal judge threw out a court challenge by a butterfly-conservation center whose 100-acre facility on the Rio Grande in South Texas stands in the way.

“Unfortunately for the plaintiff, the Fourth Amendment offers little refuge for unenclosed land near one of the countries’ external borders,” U.S. District Judge Richard Leon wrote Thursday, dismissing the suit by the North American Butterfly Association.

Though construction of a border wall is set to include 33 new miles of barriers across the Rio Grande Valley, Leon said the challengers made no showing that the government had entered or searched physical structures on the its National Butterfly Center without consent. 

The center may be able to seek damages under trespass theory, Leon noted, but he emphasized that the search and seizure clause offers no relief for “open fields,” even when owned privately.

Leon also backed the government’s right to search any privately owned land within 25 miles of bordering countries.

As for the center’s due-process claims, Leon said the government has not made any move to acquire the property in question.

The National Butterfly Center is home to more than 100 wild butterfly species, a number of which are considered threatened or endangered.

Accompanying a motion for an injunction Monday, the executive director of the butterfly association said that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have made it impossible for visitors to access the 70 percent of the center south of the levee.

Marianna Trevino Wright said border agents, Texas state troopers, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officers, and employees of a government contracted construction firm called SLSCO Ltd. have all entered the butterfly preserve without permission.

The Customs and Border Protection agency has made plans to build a “reinforced concrete levee wall to the height of the existing levee,” and “18 feet tall steel bollards” on top of the concrete wall. This installation will involve clearing the vegetation that makes up butterflies’ natural habitat.

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