UTB, government reach settlement on border fence
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March 19, 2008 - 2:56 PM
By Kevin Sieff, The Brownsville Herald
The federal government's lawsuit against UTB-TSC over the border fence has been dismissed-at least for now.
After six hours of negotiations, both parties' lawyers reached a compromise before the case's scheduled court date today.
The resulting court order gives federal surveyors access to the university's land, but asserts a number of related conditions.
"They're not allowed to mow a single blade of grass without our permission," University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College President Juliet V. Garcia said, summarizing what university administrators described as a minor triumph in the ongoing litigation.
On Wednesday afternoon, Daniel Renfro Jr., counsel for Texas Southmost College District, told U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen that federal surveyors "are now authorized to go onto the university's property to assess all alternatives" to a physical barrier. If the Department of Homeland Security decides to construct the barrier, a second land condemnation suit will be filed.
"Maybe we reached a result where both sides are equally pleased and equally displeased," Hanen said. "This is the process envisioned by Congress when they passed the act."
Hanen suggested that the negotiation between the university and the federal government should be used as a template for related cases-especially those involving public institutions.
"That was our intent," Garcia said, "to test the outer edges of the rights landowners have."
For more on this story, read Thursday's Brownsville Herald.