Border wall

Butterflies, Border Walls, and Property Rights

The North American Butterfly Association says Border Patrol agents have harassed employees and damaged property at the National Butterfly Center.


The National Butterfly Center

Trump's border wall will be bad for people and bad for property rights. It will also be bad for butterflies.

On Monday the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) filed a lawsuit in D.C. District Court alleging a pattern of intrusion and harassment by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials preparing for the construction of a border wall.

Federal personnel and contractors, the lawsuit claims, have entered and cleared land on NABA's privately owned 100-acre Butterfly Center in southern Texas without the association's permission, in violation of several statutes as well as the Fifth Amendment to U.S. Constitution.

"They've cleared vegetation that we wanted there that we placed there for butterflies. They stopped our employees from going on our private property," says NABA President Jeff Glassberg.

Future plans to build a wall along a levee that bisects the Butterfly Center—an area that NABA has spent $7 million turning into a wildlife refuge for some 235 species of butterflies—would make over two thirds of the property inaccessible to visitors or staff, the lawsuit claims.

"If you're an American citizen," Glassberg tells Reason, "you ought to be very concerned that the government can come on with no authorization and do whatever they want."

The trouble began on July 20, when Marianna Trevino-Wright—the Butterfly Center's executive director—came across a team of uninvited workers using chainsaws and heavy equipment to clear vegetation along a private road that is wholly on the center's property.

"I was like, 'Hi, what are y'all doing back here.' I mean was really that casual," says Trevino-Wright. "One of the guys with chainsaws said, 'We're clearing this land.' I said, 'You mean my land.'"

A supervisor for the work crew told her that the men were there doing work for Customs and Border Protection. He did not elaborate, but he said that someone from the agency would be in touch with her shortly.

Trevino-Wright immediately contacted a community liaison officer for the agency, who couldn't or wouldn't give her any information about what those workers were doing on her land. Neither could the five CBP agents who visited her the next day. Not until an August 1 meeting with Manuel Padilla Jr., the agency's sector chief for the Rio Grande Valley, did Trevino-Wright get any answers.

According to Trevino-Wright, Padilla confirmed that the contractors were there on the agency's orders, that they were clearing the land to make way for the agency's "tactical infrastructure," and that they would return with "green uniformed presence"—that is, armed federal agents—to continue their work.

Padilla, who is named as a defendant in NABA's lawsuit, reportedly told Trevino-Wright that any that locks or gates that interfered with this work would be cut down.

Padilla also reportedly showed Trevino-Wright diagrams of the planned border wall, which would run through Butterfly Center property and which would require yet more of the center's land to be cleared for "secondary roads and government operations."

In February, then–Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly—also named as a defendant—issued a memorandum instructing CBP to "immediately begin planning, design, construction and maintenance of a wall, including the attendant lighting, technology (including sensors), as well as patrol and access roads."

Reason reached out to Customs and Border Protection to confirm many of these details, but was told it was against the agency's policy to comment on pending litigation.

In his meeting with Trevino-Wright, Padilla also invoked the agency's power under the Immigration and Nationality Act to warrantlessly search any vehicles and people "within a reasonable distance" of the border. In 1953, this "reasonable distance" was set at 100 miles, an area that today contains 200 million people. The agency has claimed the additional authority to enter private property without a warrant within 25 miles of the border.

This broad grant of authority has paved the way for a pattern of aggressive, and often invasive, immigration enforcement, including the establishment of some 170 internal immigration checkpoints, warrantless immigration raids, and routine stops and interrogations by the Border Patrol.

Trevino-Wright says she and her employees have had first-hand experience of these extraconstitutional practices, especially in recent months. "Stopping people, trying to take people into custody. This is toward my employees," says Trevino-Wright, adding that border patrol agents have even prevented visitors from entering the Butterfly Center's property.

One employee has already quit because of CBP's actions, says Trevino-Wright. If she did not have family in the area, Trevino-Wright adds, she would probably leave too.

CBP has also placed sensors on Butterfly Center property, and so far has refused to disclose where these sensors are located.

The complaint filed by NABA argues that the feds' unauthorized clearing of vegetation amounts to an unconstitutional taking of the association's property, and thus violates the group's Fifth Amendment rights. The suit also says that repeated warrantless entry, and the placing of sensors on Butterfly Center land, violates the group's Fourth Amendment rights.

"You have to do what you can to stop all this kind of illegal behavior," Glassberg tells Reason. "This country is becoming more and more like a police state, and it's up to everybody to do what they can to stop it."

NEXT: What Roy Moore's Near-Miss Tells us About America's Great Media Divide

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  1. Don’t wanna be a thug, don’t be workin’ for no Big Butterfly.

    1. My Whole month’s on-line financ-ial gain is $2287. i’m currently ready to fulfill my dreams simply and reside home with my family additionally. I work just for two hours on a daily basis. everybody will use this home profit system by this link………

  2. Federal personal and contractors

    Get your act together, Britches.

    1. It’s just a reminder of how few fucks he has to give.

  3. “You have to do what you can to stop all this kind of illegal behavior,” Glassberg tells Reason. “This country is becoming more and more like a police state, and it’s up to everybody to do what they can to stop it.”

    Allow me to quote our nation’s second-greatest living songwriter:

    “Choose your battles, babe
    Then you’ll win the war
    Stop digging your own grave
    When there’s so much to live for
    Choose your battles, babe
    ‘Cause I’m not fighting anymore
    I am not fighting anymore”

    1. Or perhaps another songwriter:

      “There’s a place in the world for the angry young man
      With his working class ties and his radical plans
      He refuses to bend, he refuses to crawl
      He’s always at home with his back to the wall
      And he’s proud of his scars and the battles he’s lost
      And he struggles and bleeds as he hangs on the cross
      And he likes to be known as the angry young man”

      1. +1 Billy

  4. “You have to do what you can to stop all this kind of illegal behavior,” Glassberg tells Reason. “This country is becoming more and more like a police state, and it’s up to everybody to do what they can to stop it.”

    Nobody is buying this paranoid crazy talk.

    1. it’s up to everybody to do what they can to stop it

      We Americans don’t believe in police states, and we will fight by immediately re-electing everyone to Congress.

  5. Yet one more way the right is as selective, if not more so, in their reading of the Constitution as the left is.

    They get outraged if illegal immigrants are trespassing on private land, but they are totes fine with the government trespassing on private land if it means the wall gets built.

    1. I have had it mansplained to me on this very blog many times building a wall to keep out the mexican hoards is exactly like a private property owner building a fence to keep kids off his lawn. So in reality Trump is defending property rights by taking people’s land for his wall.

      1. I’ve had it authoritarisplained to me on this blog that the Border Patrol respects people’s rights and property and holds it officers accountable.

      2. mexican hoards

        As if.

      3. Also, something something imaginary lines.

  6. North American Butterfly Association (NABA)

    Can you say wasteful spending.

      1. Do you really think that there are $7mm worth of donations for butterflies? These are the types of things that come from grant applications.

        I could give a fuck because I am not taking the time to research but I would bet thousands that this is tax payer funded.

        Everything with a sign like that, by the way, is a government money suck.

        1. /organizations/133689481 (remove spaces to click link never will learn HTML)

          In 2015 they received $60K from gov grants (got to click on the pdf filing statement). Total rev was $626,225 in 2015.

          1. please stop introducing evidence here. timbo is in the middle of making up his own facts.

          2. If you delete the s in https, the squirrels will auto shorten.


        2. You may be right about a national assn (I’m suspicious of ‘national’ anything) – but don’t underestimate the power of butterflies/bugs/invertebrates.

          We have a Butterfly Pavilion in my city. Yeah about 800k of their revenue is a science/cultural district allocation from sales taxes. But $3 million is from admissions/gift shop/consulting/events – with 30,000 volunteer hours and are able to spend $1.5 million on research (otherwise would be spent on bank loans – since no non-profit like this could compete for land with those who get subsidized for land purchases). That’s one city – with obvious land and therefore research constraints.

      2. Can you say weaponized Lepidoptera? Do you think monarch butterflies just naturally fly down by the million to occupy Mexico? You na?ve fool.

    1. North American Butterfly Association (NABA)
      They used to be the North American Monarch Butterfly and Lepidoptera Association (NAMBLA) until a series of unfortunate incidents forced a name change.

      1. They were sued by the North American Marlon Brando Lookalike Association.

  7. Of course, if it were a private individual cutting trees without the EPA’s (or other state / local version thereof) permission, the cops would be hauling the landowner away.

    Is anyone else’s head about to explode?

    1. The government is benevolent and kind.

      They are as benevolent as a drunk with someone else’s money.

      Both of these entities sound like a bullshit wastes of money to me.

      The real question is how much money in attorney fees changes hands between these agencies on the tax payer dime with constant government lawsuits?

      That is where reason could prove its worth.

    2. Wait a minute, you just may be on to something there. No one – and I mean no one – gets to tell EPA to fuck off. Shoot a quick note to Madam Butterfly.

  8. Did she call the sheriff and tell the workers to leave immediately or she’d charge them with trespassing? I know how this shit works and if there’s no TRO or existing no unconditional access easement you apologize and move your ass if you don’t want to go to jail.

    1. She would have gotten green uniforms faster. Not to mention handcuffs and maybe a chance to play Mesa Twister.

  9. They should have just fired warning shots or injured one of the CBP agents/contractors and claimed they feared for their lives. Works for cops why not for honest landowners being invaded by government thugs.

    1. Because they have more guns. Have you not yet learned that despite thousands of years of technological advancement and philosophical musings, might still makes right? (ha)Sheesh!

  10. Given that America is the collective property of its voters, with all “private” property such as land, houses, money, etc. merely being on loan from The People, I see no possible legitimate libertarian objection to this.


  11. Mr Prosser: But, Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.

    Arthur: Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anybody or anything.

  12. Another typo: it’s really called the North American Butterfly-Caterpillar Love Association.

  13. Stuff like this is why there is a 2nd Amendment.

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