San Ygnacio Landowner speaks out over border wall construction

The U.S. Government approached Uribe about a year ago and filed a formal civil suit for the taking of property
Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 8:04 AM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) -A local veteran from San Ygnacio is speaking out about the construction of the border wall and how he may lose some of his land that has been in his family for generations.

If you visit San Ygnacio, you’ll be taken back in time; a small town established in 1830.

The descendants of the founding families still live there to this day. One of them is Ernesto Uribe.

The 91-year-old U.S. Army veteran lives in his childhood home, which was built in the late 1800s, passed down from generation to generation.

“Right now it doesn’t look like before. There was no electricity, no running water,” Uribe said. “We were happy enough.”

A few miles from Uribe’s backyard is the Rio Grande, and just a few more miles is Mexico.

One nonprofit that aims to preserve the historical architecture of the town says the river’s purpose has changed.

“This town was built when the river was still considered a natural resource instead of an international border," said Chris Rincon with the River Pierce Foundation. "As you look down the street behind me, we could be in any village in Mexico. You would never expect this was part of the United States.”

The U.S. Government approached Uribe about a year ago and filed a formal civil suit July 6 of this year: The United States v. Ernesto F. Uribe for the taking of property under the power of eminent domain.

“They want to take the land now because Trump wants to put a fence there,” Uribe said. “If somebody wants to come across, they are going to come across.”

Both Uribe and Chris Rincon say the costs of a wall outweigh the benefits.

“Now we’re facing the possibility of a border wall, and as absurd as that sounds, I would love to show people the river and how close we are to it and then they would see there is no place for a wall in this part of the country," Rincon said.

Legally, the federal government has the power to take private property and convert it to public use, as long as they offer “just compensation.” The process is known as eminent domain.

In this case, the government is offering $100 for nearly one acre.

Uribe says the value is much more than that, although he hasn’t gotten the land formally appraised.

“This is supposed to be a free country," Uribe said. "Let them put me in jail because I don’t have many more years to go.”

As you head back towards Laredo, the fight continues to preserve the land and natural resources.

While Uribe does not support a border wall, last week Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said there were no negatives to building it. So far, more than 300 miles of the wall have been built.

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