HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas — Making plans on her property in Los Ebanos, along the Rio Grande in Hidalgo County, is a luxury Pam Rivas hasn’t had in over a decade.
“My dream is to come and fix it up and enjoy it on weekends or, you know, once I retire,” Rivas told KENS 5. “Putting a little structure, trimming the grass.”
Rivas has been fighting the U.S. government takeover of her land for border wall construction since President George W. Bush was in office, according to her attorney.
When talking to KENS 5, Rivas seemed to have lost count of exactly how many years her battle has been going on.
“Thirteen, 14,” she wondered aloud.
Rivas said the government first approached her parents, asking for the land.
“My parents were elderly, really didn't understand the whole magnitude, the scope of it,” Rivas said. “I didn't really understand also, because it (correspondence) didn't really directly say they wanted to put a border wall. I reached out to them. And then in the news, I kept hearing this and then I said, ‘OK, so it must be they want to put a wall there.’”
Dealing with the government was complicated and required lawyers, but Rivas wasn’t budging.
“I know that a lot of people in the very beginning kind of gave in and signed (documents to give over the land to the U.S. government for border wall construction) and left Los Ebanos,” Rivas told KENS 5. “They left town completely, they moved relocated elsewhere. Not me!”
Her slice of land near the Rio Grande was worth more than any amount of money could buy.
“It just has a lot of sentimental value and there's no price for it,” she said.
So, Rivas fought. Her parents didn’t live long enough to see her win.
“It's all mine,” she said. “Documents were signed. A day I'll never forget: September 21 (, 2021). I was just happy to hear the news, but at the same time I wish my parents were here to hear the news.”
Rivas’s pro-bono attorney, Ricky Garza, from the Texas Civil Rights Project, told KENS 5 the government gave Rivas her land back.
That’s not the outcome every border landowner is experiencing, according to Garza.
The Biden administration announced the end of wall-building before the new commander-in-chief was elected.
But that hasn’t stopped all ongoing land condemnation cases. Garza estimated there were about 75 more federal land condemnation cases still going on.