Government Seeks Property Owners for Compensation

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BROWNSVILLE – The government is looking for Cameron County property owners that may still be entitled to money from the land they had to give up through eminent domain.

The government acquired many people's or their family members’ land in 2008 to build the border wall.

A notice of condemnation was issued in a local newspaper. It listed all the people that potentially may be able to claim compensation.

Brownsville resident Fernando Champion is one of the dozens listed. His grandmother owned some land located off Highway 28, not far from the Rio Grande.

The land now belongs to the government. The border wall runs right through the fields the Champion family once farmed.

"That was the thing to do. That's how you measured your wealth, by the amount of land you had,” Champion said

Champion said several of his family members are also listed on the public notice.

Assistant U.S. Attorney in Corpus Christi John Smith said Friday the government wants to close cases associated with the border wall in the Rio Grande Valley. He said there's money these property owners or the rightful heirs have yet to receive.

"This has nothing to do with new border fence, new wall, new take. This is the take that happened back in 2008," Smith said. "This is our last-ditch effort to serve that person so they can make a claim to just compensation."

Smith added the government filed about 325 condemnation actions. He said that takes time.

"Say whoever is the administration that came in, said, “We're not doing any more border fence,’" Smith explained. “We would still be doing what we're doing today. We need to close out these cases and get people paid."

Champion said he isn't surprised that now, years later, the government has yet to pay for what they took.

He said his share of his family’s land was taken too, and it took months before he received payment.

"In the real world, you've got to pay for stuff like this," Champion said. "Not with the government. It took them close to 14 months to release the funds and that's because they already had (the money)."

Some of his family members listed on the notice have already died, he said. He's been getting correspondence for months to determine if he's eligible for any more compensation.

Champion said he didn't get much the first time around and doesn't expect that to change.

"It wasn't worth it, it wasn't worth it," he said. "Not for what you were trying to get and, you know, I would've preferred for them not to build it, because I just thought it was a bad idea."

The notice was put out June 21. People on the notice have 20 days from that date to try to make a claim.

Smith added those that make a claim for compensation will have to prove their right to a property or family relation to the owner of the property, in order to receive money.

The assistant U.S. attorney said there are about 85 of these cases still open from Cameron County to Starr County.


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