Biden administration ordered to return land to a Texas family fighting federal land seizures for the border wall since 2018

Cavazos family
Jose Alfredo “Fred” Cavazos, left, and “Rey” Anzaldua Cavazos, right, sitting at their property on the banks of the Rio Grande, near Mission, Texas.

  • A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the Biden administration must return land to a south Texas family.
  • The Cavazos family had fought land seizures from the Trump and Biden administrations for border wall construction.
  • The family, who has lived on the banks of the Rio Grande for generations, will get to keep their land.

A Texas federal judge ordered President Joe Biden’s administration to return property to the Cavazos family, whose land was seized by the federal government for Trump’s border wall in 2018.

Based in Mission, Texas, along the Rio Grande Valley, the Cavazos family was served an eminent domain lawsuit in 2017 by the federal government, a legal process in which the government can seize private property for public use — in their case, for expanded border wall construction.

The family has since faced off with the administration of former President Donald Trump and now the Biden administration to keep their land.

In a filing reviewed by Insider, Judge Micaela Alvarez ruled on Tuesday that the 6.6 acres of land would be revested to the Cavazos family — months after the Biden administration announced it would cancel border wall construction contracts in Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley.

“I would like to thank my cousin, Rey Anzaldua, my brother, Alfredo Cavazos, and my sister, Baudilia Rodriguez for their continued support and tireless efforts through the process of redeeming our family’s land these past four years resulting in this unbelievably positive outcome,” Eloisa Cavazos, one of the eldest Cavazos family members living on the land, said in a statement.

“I am deeply grateful to everyone who has been involved in this undertaking,” she added. “May God bless you all.”

A government watchdog report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) showed that the Trump administration had seized 135 tracts of private land, or 5,275 acres, for border wall construction by July 2020. Biden, then a presidential candidate, pledged during his campaign that he would stop construction of the border wall, halt land confiscations, and withdraw lawsuits — like the one served to the Cavazos.

“End. Stop. Done. Over. Not going to do it. Withdraw the lawsuits. We’re out,” Biden told NPR at the time. “We’re not going to confiscate the land.”

On January 20, Biden issued a presidential proclamation that called for an immediate pause on border wall construction, with a 60-day review period to lay out a plan for how to repurpose emergency border wall funding and determine whether land confiscations would move forward.

But by the end of March, no structured plan was set forth. Many of those cases involved, including that of the Cavazos family, were initially defended in court by the Biden administration. In April, Judge Alvarez had ruled that the Biden administration could physically and immediately seize the plot of land.

“You told us one thing, and now you’re doing something else,” Rey Anzaldua Cavazos, a family member who lives on the land, told Insider in April.

In July, the Biden administration cancelled two border wall contracts, which made up nearly 31 miles along the US-Mexico border in Texas. Months later, in October, the Department of Homeland Security signaled that it would cancel the remaining construction contracts, namely in Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley, for Trump’s border wall.

“When their land was seized by President Biden this year, we knew it wouldn’t be easy but the Cavazos family never gave up,” Ricky Garza, Staff Attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, said in a statement. “We demand the government return all seized lands, immediately stop still-ongoing construction, and begin the process of tearing it down.” 

Insider reached out to the White House, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security for comment.

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