Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The People vs. Michael Chertoff - An Elder Fights Back

Brett Story The Nation New York USA

The circumstances were different the last time the federal government visited Dr. Eloise Tamez's family property in the Lower Rio Grande region of South Texas. It was 1936 and her grandparents, descendents of the Lipan Apache with ties to the land going back centuries, were poorly educated and spoke no English--little match for a state government on a mission to build flood levees. "The government took half our land and then left whole families on the south side," says Tamez angrily.

The latest threat to Tamez's land comes in the form of a proposed eighteen-foot steel and concrete wall, to be built through her property as part of the controversial US-Mexico border fence. Determined to fight the seizure, the 72-year-old Apache elder launched a class action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Michael Chertoff. Last week, a federal judge ruled in favor of Tamez and her co-defendants, agreeing that Chertoff violated federal law in his rush to build several hundred miles of border wall along the Texas-Mexico border.

Last week's ruling vindicated claims that DHS is riding roughshod over the rights of local residents, and provided some legal footing to those whose land is threatened by the wall's incursion. As Julio Noboa, assistant professor and faculty sponsor of Students for Peace and Change, points out,

"When you alienate enough people, you push their hand."

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