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By Associated Press

HIDALGO, Texas — As President Donald Trump travels to the border in Texas to make the case for his $5.7 billion wall , landowner Eloisa Cavazos says she knows firsthand how the project will play out if the White House gets its way.

The federal government has started surveying land along the border in Texas and announced plans to start construction next month. Rather than surrender their land, some property owners are digging in, vowing to reject buyout offers and preparing to fight the administration in court.

“You could give me a trillion dollars and I wouldn’t take it,” said Cavazos, whose land sits along the Rio Grande, the river separating the U.S. and Mexico in Texas. “It’s not about money.”

Trump is scheduled to visit the border Thursday in McAllen, a city of 143,000 on the river.

Congress in March funded 33 miles (53 kilometers) of walls and fencing in Texas. The government has laid out plans that would cut across private land in the Rio Grande Valley. Those in the way include landowners who have lived in the valley for generations, environmental groups and a 19th century chapel.

Many have hired lawyers who are preparing to fight the government if, as expected, it moves to seize their land through eminent domain.

The opposition will intensify if Democrats accede to the Trump administration’s demand to build more than 215 new miles of wall, including 104 miles in the Rio Grande Valley and 55 miles near Laredo. Even a compromise solution to build “steel slats,” as Trump has suggested, or more fencing of the kind that Democrats have previously supported would likely trigger more court cases and pushback in Texas.

Legal experts say Trump likely cannot waive eminent domain — which requires the government to demonstrate a public use for the land and provide landowners with compensation — by declaring a national emergency.

While this is Trump’s first visit to the border in Texas as president, his administration’s immigration crackdown has been felt here for months.

Hundreds of the more than 2,400 children separated from their parents last summer were detained in cages at a Border Patrol facility in McAllen. Three “tender-age” facilities for the youngest children were opened in this region.

The president also ordered soldiers to the border in response to a wave of migrant caravans before the November election. Those troops had a heavy presence in the Rio Grande Valley, though they have since quietly left. A spokeswoman for the border security mission said they closed their base camp along the border on Dec. 22.

Father Roy Snipes, pastor of the La Lomita Chapel inside the sanctuary of the church in Mission, Texas on Jan. 8, 2019.John L. Mone / AP

But Trump’s border wall will last beyond his administration. Building in the region is a top priority for the Department of Homeland Security because it’s the busiest area for illegal border crossings. More than 23,000 parents and children were caught illegally crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley in November — more than triple the number from a year earlier.

Homeland Security officials argue that a wall would stop many crossings and deter Central American families from trying to migrate north. Many of those families are seeking asylum because of violence in their home countries and often turn themselves in to border agents when they arrive here.

The number of families has surged. DHS said Wednesday that it detained 27,518 adults and children traveling together on the southern border in December, a new monthly high.

With part of the $1.6 billion Congress approved in March, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced it would build 25 miles (40 kilometers) of wall along the flood-control levee in Hidalgo County, which runs well north of the Rio Grande.

Congress did not allow construction of any of Trump’s wall prototypes. But the administration’s plans call for a concrete wall to the height of the existing levee, with 18-foot (5.5 meters) steel posts on top. CBP wants to clear 150 feet (45 meters) in front of any new construction for an “enforcement zone” of access roads, cameras, and lighting.

The government sued the local Roman Catholic diocese late last year to gain access for its surveyors at the site of La Lomita chapel, which opened in 1865 and was an important site for missionaries who traveled the Rio Grande Valley by horseback.

It remains an epicenter of the Rio Grande Valley’s Catholic community, hosting weddings and funerals, as well as an annual Palm Sunday procession that draws 2,000 people.

The chapel is a short distance from the Rio Grande. It falls directly into the area where CBP wants to build its “enforcement zone.”

The diocese said it opposes a border wall because the barrier violates Catholic teachings and the church’s responsibility to protect migrants, as well as the church’s First Amendment right of religious freedom. A legal group from Georgetown University has joined the diocese in its lawsuit.

Father Roy Snipes leads prayers each Friday for his chapel to be spared. Wearing a cowboy hat with his white robe and metal cross, he’s known locally as the “cowboy priest” and sometimes takes a boat on the Rio Grande to go from his home to the chapel.

“It would poison the water,” Snipes said. “It would still be a sacred place, but it would be a sacred place that was desecrated.”

The Cavazos family’s roughly 64 acres (0.25 square kilometers) were first purchased by their grandmother 60 years ago.

They rent some of the property to tenants who have built small houses or brought in trailers, charging some as little as $1,000 a year. They live off the earnings from the land and worry that a fence would deter renters and turn their property into a “no man’s land.”

On the rest of the property are plywood barns, enclosures for cattle and goats, and a wooden deck that extends into the river, which flows serenely east toward the Gulf of Mexico. Eloisa’s brother, Fred, can sit on the deck in his wheelchair and fish with a rod fashioned from a long carrizo reed plucked from the riverbank.

Surveyors examined their property in December under federal court order. The family hasn’t yet received an offer for their land, but their lawyers at the Texas Civil Rights Project expect a letter with an offer will arrive in the coming weeks.

“Everybody tells us to sell and go to a better place,” Eloisa Cavazos said. “This is heaven to us.”

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Trump abruptly reverses Treasury’s North Korea-related sanctions on Chinese shippers

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By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump suggested Friday that he would lift sanctions his Treasury Department had just announced it would impose on two Chinese shipping companies for allegedly violating existing prohibitions on providing goods and transportation services to North Korea.

“It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!”

The sanctions — which the White House did not immediately confirm that the president’s tweet was in reference to — were actually announced Thursday by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is an agency under the Treasury Department.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders explained the president’s decision as a courtesy to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with whom Trump broke off denuclearization talks in Hanoi last month.

“President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary,” Sanders said.

Victor Cha, a former National Security Council official and an MSNBC contributor, said that Trump’s decision had undercut law enforcement and sent a message to Kim that he won’t ramp up sanctions. While it’s good that Trump wants to continue diplomatic discussions with Kim, Cha said, the tweet had also sent the wrong signal to other countries about U.S. policy.

For years, the U.S. has used the threat and imposition of sanctions to deter individuals, companies and foreign governments from doing business with the North Korean regime to squeeze that nation’s economy and pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program.

At a time when Trump is eager to strike a trade deal with China, the relief from sanctions that Treasury officials imposed may also go over well in Beijing.

In announcing the sanctions Thursday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the U.S. government wanted to make clear to shipping companies that they could not do business with North Korea.

“The United States and our like-minded partners remain committed to achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea and believe that the full implementation of North Korea-related UN Security Council resolutions is crucial to a successful outcome,” Mnuchin said. “Treasury will continue to enforce our sanctions, and we are making it explicitly clear that shipping companies employing deceptive tactics to mask illicit trade with North Korea expose themselves to great risk.”

However, senior Trump administration officials also said Thursday that “the door is wide open” to more talks with North Korea, telling reporters that President Trump remains “personally engaged” and also wants contacts to occur on the working level, although they wouldn’t disclose whether any such contacts have occurred since the summit between the president and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Josh Lederman contributed.

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Gun rights groups try last-ditch move to stop Trump ban on rapid-fire bump stocks

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By Pete Williams

WASHINGTON — Owners of bump stocks — attachments that allow rifles to be fired rapidly — are hoping a federal appeals court will relieve them of the legal duty to destroy the devices by Monday.

The Trump administration ordered a ban on bump stocks after they figured prominently in the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 58 people and wounded 500 others. A police investigation revealed that Stephen Paddock, who carried out the massacre, had 22 semi-automatic rifles with him in his hotel room overlooking an outdoor concert that he attacked, and 14 of the weapons were equipped with bump stocks.

Under a federal rule that took effect in December, owners must destroy their bump stocks, which are usually made of plastic, by Monday or risk prosecution for a felony. The rule suggests smashing them with a hammer, cutting them apart with a saw, or turning them over to a local ATF office. It applies to individual owners, dealers, wholesalers and manufacturers.

Federal authorities estimate that half a million of them have been sold in the U.S.

The devices are attached to a rifle in place of the normal stock, the end piece that sit next to a user’s shoulder. Once in place, the bump stock absorbs the weapon’s recoil and alters the relationship between the trigger finger and the weapon.

Without a bump stock, the rifle remains stationary, and the trigger finger must be moved to fire each round. With a bump stock, after the trigger is pulled once, the recoil begins moving the trigger against the finger, which remains stationary, resulting in rapid firing like a fully automatic rifle.

For that reason, the Trump administration concluded that bump stocks violate a federal law that bans machineguns, defined as weapons that automatically fire more than one shot “with a single function of the trigger.”

Gun rights groups sued, arguing that bump stocks are intended to be used with AR-15 style rifles which are mechanically incapable of firing more than once with a single function of the trigger, because it must be released and moved again to allow the weapon to fire. They say the words of the statute — single function of the trigger — refer to the movement of the trigger itself, not whether the trigger is pulled by a finger or actuated by a bump stock.

“The government is just wrong to focus to focus on the behavior of the person rather than the function of the trigger,” said Erik Jaffee, representing the gun owners. “Function of the trigger means the trigger, not the shooter.”

The Justice Department told the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., on Friday that the courts have interpreted the phrase “single function of the trigger” to mean “single pull of the trigger.” A bump stock, government lawyers argued, allows a rifle to fire automatically once the trigger is pulled once, and that qualifies it as a machinegun.

An ATF spokeswoman said some owners have already turned in their bump stocks. But gun owner groups said others were waiting to see whether the appeals court agrees to put the rule on hold.

The court did not indicate when it might rule.



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‘I will TELEPATHICALLY stop you!’ Uri Geller sends Theresa May BIZARRE Brexit warning

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PARANORMAL spoon bender Uri Geller has written a bizarre open letter to Theresa May, telling the Prime Minister he “loves” her but “will stop you telepathically” from carrying out Brexit.

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