April 11, 2008 / 8:25 PM / 11 years ago

REFILE-U.S. court rules against landowner on border fence

(Fixes spelling of waived in paragraph 4)

By Ed Stoddard

DALLAS, April 11 (Reuters) - A U.S. District Court judge has ordered a Texas woman to let the government survey her land for a border security fence, the latest round in a series of skirmishes to arise from the immigration-control measure.

Eloisa Tamez has been been a leading figure in resistance to the fence, which is deeply unpopular in border areas. It has made her a thorn in plans to roll out a 670-mile (1,070-km) barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border to block people from entering illegally.

"The government is hereby granted the right to survey, make borings, and conduct other related investigations on the tract of land," said the ruling issued late on Thursday in the U.S. District Court’s Brownsville division in south Texas.

Immigration is a hot issue in this presidential election year and the government earlier this month waived environmental and other regulations it said would delay completion of the planned barrier.

Tamez, a nursing professor who owns a small plot with two modest houses near the Texas-Mexican border close to Brownsville, could not be immediately reached for comment. The land is the remnants of a ranch that has been in her family since the 1700s.

She filed a suit against U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in February in which she claimed the fence would "virtually complete destruction of the character and use of the lands for hundreds of years."

The court said there was no way to tell what the government would do to her property and it had no way of knowing what it might do without access to her land.

"Regarding the specific details of the investigation, the court is quite sympathetic to both parties. Any landowner, not just Dr. Tamez, would like to know the exact details of what the government will be doing on his or her property," the court ruled in its opinion.

"The government, however, maintains with credibility that it does not know the scope of the investigation that will be required until it has access to the property, placing it in a proverbial "Catch-22."

Tamez is one of many people along the border who are fighting the fence.

Ranchers fear they will lose access to irrigation pumps, while ecologists worry it will block the migration of endangered species such as the jaguar and ocelot, and anglers and boaters do not want to be cut off from the Rio Grande, which divides Texas and Mexico. (Additional reporting by Randall Mikkelsen in Washington) (Editing by Peter Cooney)

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