Judge Temporarily Blocks Construction of Privately-Funded Border Wall in Texas

December 4, 2019 Updated: December 4, 2019

A Texas judge ordered a temporary halt on the construction of a section of a privately-funded wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, saying that it would cause harm to a nearby butterfly sanctuary.

State District Judge Keno Vasquez of Hidalgo County issued a temporary restraining order (pdf) on Tuesday against the nonprofit, We Build the Wall, to stop construction of the border wall on any land owned by the National Butterfly Center.

We Build the Wall, which was founded by Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage, has raised more than $22 million to build portions of the border wall on private land. Construction work started May 17 in the El Paso, Texas, metropolitan area, which saw an influx of illegal immigrants cross the border into the United States earlier this year.

The National Butterfly Center (NBC), a 100-acre wild butterfly habitat located near the area, sued We Build the Wall asserting that the construction was “illegal” and would result in “ecological damage” to the area, according to environmental law group Earthjustice who wrote a statement Dec. 4 on behalf of the NBC.

Vasquez wrote in his order that the center would suffer “irreparable harm” if the construction were to go ahead.

“The property and rights involved are unique and irreplaceable, so that it Will be impossible to accurately measure, in monetary terms, the damages caused by the Defendants’ conduct,” the judge wrote.

Kolfage told The Epoch Times on Wednesday that he has not been served with the temporary restraining order and will proceed with the construction until he receives the order.

According to the order, Kolfage and the other defendants are required to appear in the court on Dec. 17 to “show cause why the requested temporary injunction should not be granted.”

Following the Tuesday decision, the NBC and Earthjustice said they had sent a letter (pdf) asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to investigate any “apparent violations of federal law” on the construction of the 3.5 mile stretch of the wall along the Rio Grande River in Hidalgo County, Texas.

“It appears that We Build the Wall has not sought or obtained required federal permits for its construction activities on the Rio Grande. As such, we respectfully ask that the Corps immediately investigate the extent of these violations, and require that all illegal construction activity cease,” the letter read.

Earlier this year, a federal judge dismissed a case (pdf) brought by the Texas butterfly sanctuary, who sought to stop the Trump administration from building its wall. The judge said did not accept the NBC’s constitutional arguments saying that “the Fourth Amendment offers little refuge for unenclosed land near one of the country’s external borders.”

We Build the Wall, who has also built a section of the wall in Sunland Park, New Mexico, was given a cease-and-desist order by the mayor of the City of Sunland Park on May 28, who said the wall was in violation of city ordinance because the application for the permit was incomplete. However, on May 30 the non-profit received the required permits from local officials to continue constructing the wall.

Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan