A federal judge in McAllen, Texas, has temporarily blocked a plan for a construction firm favored by President Trump to build a privately-funded segment of border wall along the banks of the Rio Grande River.
The same firm, Fisher Industries, recently won a $400 million federal contract to construct 31 miles of barrier along the border near Yuma, Arizona. President Trump has urged the Army Corps of Engineers to hire the North Dakota–based firm, whose head is a major Republican donor and a frequent guest on Fox News.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane issued the temporary restraining order against Fisher Sand and Gravel and its subsidiary, Fisher Industries, Thursday afternoon in response to an emergency request from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas. Federal prosecutors filed the request on Thursday, along with a civil lawsuit against Fisher on behalf of the U.S. International Boundary Water Commission (IBWC), which, under a 1970 treaty with Mexico, has jurisdiction over approximately 1,000 miles of border that runs along the bed of the Rio Grande River.
Since the course of the river can change over time, meaning land on one side of the border can wind up in a different country, one of the functions of the commission is to keep the boundary lines in the same place.
The complaint outlines IBWC’s concerns that allowing the construction along approximately three miles of riverbank without prior approval from IBWC may violate the treaty, formally named the “Treaty to Resolve Pending Boundary Differences and Maintain the Rio Grande and Colorado River as the International Boundary.” Although construction of a barrier has not begun yet, prosecutors also claim that by clear cutting vegetation and grading the riverbank in preparation for the wall construction, Fisher likely already violated the terms of that treaty by causing a possible “shift of the Rio Grande river channel and, therefore, a shift of the international boundary line which runs in the center of the riverbed.”
Federal Judge Randy Crane wrote in granting the injunction: “There is good cause to believe that Defendants Fisher Industries, Fisher Sand and Gravel Co., and Neuhaus & Sons, LLC. [the company that owns the property where the wall is intended to go] have engaged in, and are likely to engage in, acts that violate or have violated the requirements of the USIBWC pursuant to the 1970 Treaty between the United States and Mexico.”