Eloisa Tamez remembers the exact day five years ago when she said it took the federal government just 24 hours to seize and plow through a parcel of land that had been in her Lipan Apache family for generations.
Following two years of courtroom battles with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the agency got the go-ahead in 2009 to extend its controversial border fence across her land. Since then, roughly 75 percent of her formerly three-acre lot has been behind a steel barrier, land that’s now the property of the federal government.
Tamez isn’t alone in her opposition to the fence, which was erected to stop undocumented immigrants, human smugglers and drug traffickers from breaching the U.S. border. But her family’s allegations that the fence discriminates against Native American tribes with land along the border has added a complicated new layer to the debate.
In partnership with the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, Tamez and other Lipan Apaches are seeking relief from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. They allege that the fence has “blocked access to sacred sites and deprives the Lipan Apache of their First Amendment right to express their religious freedoms at certain traditional ceremonies,” according to a news release issued when the clinic submitted its report to the U.N. in February. (That report is a supplement to earlier reports the Lipan Apaches and the UT law clinic have submitted to federal and U.N. officials.)
A spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley sector, whose jurisdiction includes El Calaboz in Cameron County, did not respond to a request for comment on the report. The agency would only say that it usually does not comment on pending legal issues.
The federal government has argued that the fence, combined with technology and manpower, is essential to border security. And some border residents have lauded its arrival, saying their land was overrun with trespassers before its construction.
But other border residents, immigrants, environmentalists and human rights groups have not seen the fence in such a positive light. They argue that it sends the wrong message to the U.S.’s southern neighbor and is a waste of resources that hasn’t stopped the flow of illegal migration.
Tamez, who was compensated about $58,000 for her land, said she took the federal money in protest, and used it to fund scholarships for nursing students at the University of Texas at Brownsville.
“I am not going to personally use the money that the government has given me due to this injustice; I want it to live forever in my parents’ name,” she said. “They are the ones who worked hard on this land to give us a life.”
To read the full story: http://www.texastribune.org/2014/05/22/indigenous-texans-seek-un-support-over-border-fenc/