NEW: Judge Spots Issues in Environmental Group’s Case Against Private Border Wall

McAllen, Texas — Despite District Court Judge Randy Crane’s befuddlement over the the International Boundary and Water Commission’s (IBWC) treatment of Fisher Industries, contracted by non-profit We Build The Wall to construct a border barrier in Mission, TX in the Rio Grande Valley, the group still won’t be able to build for at least another week.

“I’m concerned that different people are being treated differently,” Crane said to Dr. Padinare Unnikrishna, the IBWC’s Chief of Engineering Services.

Unnikrishna testified for the federal government against Fisher Industries Friday in a hearing that was supposed to decide whether a previous injunction levied by the court would be lifted, allowing the group to build a crucial 3.5 miles of border wall in an area highly trafficked by cartel members and illegal border crossers. The venue for the hearing is the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Despite Fisher Industries’ compliance with every demand made by the IBWC, and the fact that the IBWC appears to be putting Fisher Industries through the ringer, the court was still bound by The Treaty of Nov. 23, 1970, which gave power to the IBWC to make the final say on who and what can be built in flood plain areas of the Rio Grande Valley.

After coddling by the federal government’s attorneys, Unnikrishna was torn to shreds by Fisher Industries’ lawyers, and eventually Judge Crane himself. Two main topics were at issue: why Fisher Industries was required to provide 1D and 2D environmental impact models for the IBWC to examine when other private organizations have not had to jump through such hoops, and why the IBWC seemingly delayed notifying Fisher Industries of those requirements for more than one month.

“No private organization has ever been required to [provide 1D and 2D models to the IWBC], to the best of your knowledge?” Crane asked Unnikrishna incredulously.

Unnikrishna couldn’t point to a single example, though he said it was common for government organizations like U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to provide such information to the IBWC.

Crane pushed, demanding to know what guidelines the IBWC uses to decide what environmental modeling it requires of builders in flood plain areas. He asked about a local shopping mall, which apparently did not have to provide 2D modeling to the IBWC. Then he asked about local residents who build structures or fences on their own property, and whether they had to provide such environmental impact modeling to the organization. Unnikrishna couldn’t define the parameters, eventually agreeing that he does not know “where the line is drawn” by the IBWC.

Intermittently, Crane questioned Unnikrishna about his dealings with Fisher Industries.

Fisher Industries met with the IBWC in El Paso, TX, on Oct. 3, to discuss proposals for a border barrier at the current job site. It wasn’t until more than a month later, in mid-November, that the IBWC told Fisher Industries it would have to provide them with the environmental impact modeling. By that time, land was already being cleared, and the federal government sought an injunction against Fisher Industries and We Build The Wall. The latter organization was eventually dropped as a defendant in the case. Judge Crane seemed perturbed, noting that Unnikrishna and the IBWC likely knew Fisher Industries’ intentions to build a bollard wall on the land, and thus should have informed them of the requirements to build such a structure.

The totality of the testimony was quite suggestive, painting the picture that the IBWC might intentionally be building its own barriers to purposefully slow or halt Fisher Industries’ progress on securing the border at its current job site.

Judge Crane called it a potential due process issue, but was forced to defer to the Treaty, which only allows for building in flood plain areas once the IBWC signs a letter saying building is permitted. After a half-hour recess during which attorneys for all parties were called to Crane’s chambers, Fisher Industries decided to save its witnesses for a continuance hearing next Thursday. The temporary restraining order was upheld, though some land-clearing orders were modified.

The IWBC, which is half-controlled by Mexico, and half-controlled by the United States, has not exactly been friendly to Fisher Industries or We Build The Wall. Combined with the local social justice brigade, the private organizations looking to close the border for the good of the American people have been met with stiff resistance.

Also party to the lawsuit are the National Butterfly Center (NBC), a nature preserve run by an avid leftist by the name of Marianna Trevino Wright, and a second private company, Neuhaus & Sons. Part of the North American Butterfly Association, NBC owns property near Fisher Industries’ worksite, which is on land owned by Neuhaus & Sons. It is concerned with the environmental impact that a wall would potentially cause, and Friday called a witness to testify about those concerns.

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