A group of Texans that has opened up a new front in the battle against President Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the southern border have already prompted one interest group to threaten legal action, accusing the coalition of misleading people about eminent domain issues.
But the organizers of defendtx.org said they welcomed the response as a sign that their mission — to call out what they say is hypocrisy over the issue of property rights — is gaining steam.
The Texas Farm Bureau on Thursday sent the website's administrators a cease-and-desist letter after it featured a photo of a former farm bureau president and quoted him railing against the government’s efforts to seize private land — the quote from former Farm Bureau president Kenneth Dierschke is more than 10 years old and was in response to former Gov. Rick Perry’s trans-Texas corridor project.
That proposed $175 billion dollar project aimed to build more than 4,000 miles of toll roads, rail lines and utility lines across the state, but it was never realized after concerns were raised over tolling, funding and land acquisition, among other things.
Bureau spokesman Gene Hall said the likeness and quote were used without permission.
“It was done with reckless disregard of fact, and it had a message pointed at the current governor of Texas," Hall said. “It’s an 11-year old quote and it has no meaning of this discussion.”
The image and quote was eventually pulled from the website, but defendtx.org's organizers have linked to a blog archive where Dierschke’s comments were first reported.
In its letter, the farm bureau gave the website's administrators 10 days to respond in writing. When asked if pulling the bureau information from the site was sufficient, Hall said the letter "speaks for itself."
"We requested a response in writing to remove all references to the out of context quote from former TFB President Kenneth Dierschke from the Defend Texas website and all other uses," he said.
Hall said his organization was watching the border situation closely.
“We’re not a single issue organization, and policy developed by members doesn’t specifically address the wall,” he said. “We are for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a guest-worker program. We are concerned about the eminent domain proceedings and we are going to be watching that closely.”
Mariana T. Wright, the executive director of the National Butterfly Center in Mission and a defendtx.org administrator, said words aren’t enough.
“Concern without action is useless,” she said. “We want a public outcry, we want everyone in a position of public responsibility or authority in Texas to stand up and demand alternative solutions and demand that the federal government deal with comprehensive immigration reform.”
Disclosure: The Texas Farm Bureau has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.