EDITORIAL: Holy War: Government Should Reconsider Planned Seizure of Church Land

Originally Published by The Monitor Editorial Board

La Lomita along the banks of the Rio Grande in Mission, where the proposed border wall may be built.

All property rights should be considered sacred. But the federal government’s announced plan to seize a historic mission belonging to the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville is especially unfortunate.

We have long asked that the government respect land rights as much as possible as it plans its controversial border wall. Officials should utilize existing government easements as much as possible, especially if the structure can serve double duties by fortifying the Rio Grande levee system and help provide additional flood protection.

Instead of following the river’s many twists and turns, however, the barrier’s planned route takes a straighter route that sometimes runs several miles away from the actual border, rendering thousands of acres of private property unusable. The plans might cut corners, but might not cut costs significantly once condemnation and litigation costs of taking the property from hundreds of unwilling owners are factored in.

Land is precious, especially along the border where many families have lived on the same property for generations. In many cases family members are buried on that property, and much of it has historic significance. As officials have found in previous border fence land seizures, the owners won’t give up their property without a fight.

It has obvious historic and inspirational value. Originally, a way station for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the priests who ministered to the Rio Grande Valley on horseback more than a century ago, it eventually became a monastery for novitiates who were training for the priesthood. It is on the National Registry of Historic Places, and it’s the reason the nearby town was named Mission.

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