Imagine the government taking over a piece of your property to build a big, beautiful border fence and not get paid for it. That’s what one South Texas family is facing after years of waiting for the feds to compensate them for land they once had for generations.
“We were going to get money for them taking that piece of property and it still hasn't happened," said Gracie Garcia, who added that the wait seems endless. "Sometimes I wonder if anything is ever going to happen. We're still waiting to see what happens."
Garcia has been waiting for eight years to get paid by the federal government for land taken through eminent domain.
What was once a back yard that extended to the edge of the Rio Grande River is now bisected by the part-concrete, part-steel border fence.
"I think it was the most ridiculous idea, whoever came up with that idea. It's just a waste of money," she said.
The Government Accountability Office estimates that the border fence, built under the 2006 Secure Fence Act, cost about $4 million per mile. What is unclear is how much of that would go to settle eminent domain cases.
"We've gotten nothing from it. Just a lot of paper," said Garcia, who noted that paper keeps piling up in her home.
Court documents are mailed to Garcia every so often. It details, in legal jargon, updates to Garcia's case and that of 20 of her neighbors. Some of those neighbors told the KENS 5 Border Team that they too have not been paid for their tracts of land.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says that there are still 80 unresolved eminent domain cases related to the border fence. The office said that the government can't pay until all owners are determined.
Garcia is warning others facing eminent domain action to learn from her case. She and her family are tired of waiting to get what they say is rightfully theirs.