US government files lawsuit to stop private wall construction in South Texas

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Private border wall construction did not appear to stop despite judicial order

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A day after a state judge issued an order to halt construction by a nonprofit organization that’s building a border barrier on private property, the U.S. government did the same.

The United States International Boundary and Water Commission filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking a temporary and permanent injunction against We Build The Wall Inc.; its contractor Fisher Industries; Fisher, Sand and Gravel Co.; and Neuhaus & Sons LLC “to stop the construction of a bollard wall along the bank of the Rio Grande River.”

The documents, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas McAllen Division, come after the IBWC sent Fisher Industries a letter on Nov. 15 ordering the company not to build a border wall until all proposed construction plans are thoroughly approved and vetted by the agency.

IBWC officials said they could not comment on the lawsuit filing and referred all calls to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department, who did not immediately return a request for comment.

We Build The Wall President and Founder Brian Kolfage told Border Report last month that the organization was merely clearing up to 3 miles of riverfront land and that they were not going to put in any steel bollards until their plans were approved by the IBWC. Since then, however, Kolfage and his employee known as “Foreman Mike” has boasted that “the bollards are going in” through various social media posts on Twitter and Facebook posts.

We Build The Wall Founder and President Brian Kolfage (Courtesy website photo)

Border Report has reached out to Kolfage for a comment but he has not returned calls.

Last month, IBWC officials explained that more information was needed from the organization prior to their construction permits being granted.

“The U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission has not received sufficient information from We Build the Wall to make any determinations about their proposed wall construction in the Lower Rio Grande Valley,” Sally Spener, a foreign affairs officer for the IBWC wrote in an email to Border Report in November.

Spener told Border Report previously that more comprehensive hydrology studies were needed to be studied by her agency because of the sensitivity of building on the international waterways, and to ensure there were no violations with a 1970 international water treaty with Mexico.

Florida-based nonprofit raised millions for wall

We Build The Wall is a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Florida that uses online crowdsourcing to raise money to build private border wall segments on private property.

Lance Neuhaus, the landowner, told Border Report last month that he gave the organization permission to be on his lands. Neuhaus owns about six miles of riverfront property south of Mission, Texas.

A clearing of riverfront land owned by Lance Neuhaus is seen on Nov. 14, 2019. Neuhaus gave We Build The Wall permission to access his lands. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez).

His land is about half a mile from the National Butterfly Center, which also filed a lawsuit and earlier this week and won a temporary injunction issued by a state judge ordering We Build The Wall to stop all construction activities on the site.

Read a Border Report story on the TRO.

But Javier Pena, an Edinburg lawyer representing the National Butterfly Center on Wednesday told Border Report that despite the TRO issued Tuesday, there “was still a lot of lights and movement” on the construction staging area on Tuesday night. And he was uncertain whether construction is still continuing on the tract of land that is inaccessible to the public.

Construction equipment is seen on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, from a public road south of Mission, Texas. Operators were driving the equipment via a private road, to the right, which is on private land to clear land to build a private border wall. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez).

The site in question is not accessible to the public, except via boat on the Rio Grande, which Border Report took in November and viewed acres of sugar cane and carrizo cane cleared just feet from the water’s edge.

Read a previous Border Report story on Kolfage’s comments here.

This story will be updated when more information is available.

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