San Benito Man Waiting on Eminent Domain Compensation

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NEAR SAN BENITO – A Rio Grande Valley landowner said he’s still waiting to get paid for the space the federal government used for the border fence.

Eminent domain allows the U.S. government to use private lands for public good. The Bush administration used it to gain access to land needed to build border fencing. Almost a decade later, some private landholders said they’re still stuck in limbo.

San Benito resident Orlando Lambert said the federal government used a stretch of his land to build the border fence. He said a payment of $1,000 was promised nearly a decade ago.

 “The only thing they told me was too many cases in court, and they had to go one by one until my number came up,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Justice told CHANNEL 5 NEWS 325 eminent domain cases along the U.S.-Mexico border were opened in 2008. Nine years later, they said 85 cases are still pending litigation.

Some of Lambert’s neighbors, like Juana Buena Vides, said they got paid and even had the opportunity to negotiate terms.

“Yes, they did pay me. But they made a proposal of $10,000 per the amount of feet... I did not accept, because I told them I wanted $17,000, since they asked me to put the amount on it,” she said. “Then they told me the amount they could give me only $12,500. I accepted. I had no problem. They took long with paperwork, and they gave me the money with a check.”

CHANNEL 5 NEWS measured the length of unpaid border fence Lambert said is in his backyard. The length of it is about 100 feet. Lambert said a small portion of the land is on the other side of the fence, so visiting the other side isn’t easy.

“And then you’re on that side, and Border Patrol is just hounding you on what you’re doing back there, do you have permission and this and that. So, I’m just better off staying on this side,” he said.

Lambert said he still sees illegal activity along the border. He added he chose not to fight his case in court.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS is still waiting for details from CBP and the Department of Justice on Lambert’s payment delay. Count on CHANNEL 5 NEWS to bring you more.


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