UPDATE: Diocese of Brownsville opposes federal efforts to build border fencing on its property

The federal government has informed the Diocese of Brownsville that intends to construct border fencing on properties owned by the Catholic church in Hidalgo County.

In a statement, the Diocese said Bishop Daniel E. Flores has engaged in discussions with federal officials about requests for right of entry and site assessment at two properties in order to make survey preparations for the eventual construction of border fencing.

While the statement said Flores respects the responsibilities of men and women involvement in border security, it is his judgment that church property should not be used for the purposes of building border fencing.

“Such a structure would limit the freedom of the Church to exercise her mission in the Rio Grande Valley, and would in fact be a sign contrary to the Church’s mission,” the church said in a statement. “Thus, in principle, the bishop does not consent to use church property to construct a border wall.”

The federal government is taking the Diocese of Brownsville to court in order to obtain survey rights and gain access to the properties owned by the church, which was expected, according to the statement.

Diocesan Relations Director Brenda Nettles Riojas said the properties the government is seeking include La Lomita and some land south of the Juan Diego Academy in Mission on brush land next to the levee.

In court documents, the federal government said it is seeking to take approximately 64 acres from the Diocese of Brownsville for the purpose of border fencing, but Riojas explained that legally, the federal government had to list the entire properties.

Through court proceedings, the government’s legal maneuver will impact about one acre on each property for survey purposes, Riojas said.

The federal government lists its initially estimate for reimbursement at $100, but concedes that there may be additional compensation as court proceedings and negotiations play out.

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This story has been updated to include more details.