"There will not be another foot of wall constructed in my administration," candidate Joe Biden told NPR in August 2020. Referring to the private property that former President Donald Trump's Justice Department was trying to seize for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Biden said, "End, end, end, stop, done, over. Not gonna do it. Withdraw the lawsuits. We're out."
Those lawsuits, it turns out, were not withdrawn. In April, a federal judge ruled that a Texas family will have to surrender land for the border wall.
"We are utterly devastated," says Baudilia Cavazos, whose family owns land in Hidalgo County, Texas. "We thought President Joe Biden would protect us. Now we've lost our land. We don't even know what comes next."
The Cavazos clan has fended off similar attempts at confiscation for years. When Trump took office, he sought to claim about seven acres and divide the family's land—which they rent to various tenants—in two, rendering a huge chunk of the property nearly inaccessible to prospective customers.
"I retired five years ago—I taught for 40 years," Eloisa Cavazos told Reason in 2018. "This is my income that I use for my retirement." She may have to find a new source of income.
Had the president wanted to, his administration could have stopped the ruling. On his first day in office, Biden issued a proclamation pausing border wall construction for 60 days to determine whether any land needed to be confiscated. Those 60 days came and went without a decision.
The seizure marks another promise broken by Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, both of whom cast themselves as foils to Trump's merciless immigration policies. Their administration is also defending Immigration and Customs Enforcement after the agency set up a fake college, charged immigrant students thousands of dollars, and then deported them without refunds.
The land owned by Eloisa and Ray Cavazos, along with their cousin Rey Anzaldua, has dwindled over the years. Descendants of Spanish settlers, the family began with 18,000 acres. "Now we probably have no more than 150 acres," Anzaldua says. "That's a lot of land to lose."
The parcel will soon be smaller still. "We're liable to lose about 10 acres, three barns, and two houses," Anzaldua says. When his cousins asked for help fighting the seizure, Anzaldua told them, "Yes. I've got ties to this land just like you do. This is our grandmother's land."
Despite Biden's promises to the contrary, it is now the government's land.