This letter was submitted by Steven Lettunich, a forth generation farmer from Tornillo, Texas. I heard Steven read this letter to a large group of people. There wasn't a dry eye in the house.
In 1910 at the age of only 19 my great grandfather Martin N. Lettunich left his tiny village in Yugoslavia. He boarded a boat bound for the land of opportunity. With ambition in his mind, a prayer in his heart, and only thirty dollars in his pocket he landed in New York he then began the process to become a proud citizen of this great country. He then made the long journey by train to California where he worked as a farmhand on an apple farm. A few short years later he left the apple farm for an opportunity to earn a better living in the mines of Bixby, Arizona. After saving as much of his earnings as possible he had heard word of land for sale in far west Texas.
In 1917 and at the age of only 26 He then made the trip down to El Paso where he found the land he was looking for. He found roughly 200 acres of land that was riddled with Mesquite, greasewood, cottonwoods, and salt-cedars. Undeterred, he saw the land for what it could be and not what it was. He then began the incredible task of clearing this land of all the brush in order to make it suitable for farming. By the use of teams of horses and by the sweat of his brow he built himself a farm. It was on this farm that he and my great grand mother started their family. It was on this farm that my great grandparents eldest children were born, including my grandfather. It was on this farm that they lost their daughter Kate, while still a little girl she slipped into an irrigation canal and lost her life. It was on this farm that my Grandfather and his three brothers learned the value of their hard work and it was this farm and their hard work that allowed my great grandfather to expand.
In 1930’s the Rio Grande was prone to flooding and changing course during rainy seasons so the governments of Mexico and the United States agreed to a new permanent location of the river in these agreements land was purchased and sold by both sides. The new location happened to split my great grandfathers original farm in half. As upsetting as this was at time he new that it was for the greater good his community to create flood control and The United States government had agreed to compensate him justly for his land so he agreed to their terms and sold.
In 2002 at the urging of one local politician the county government began looking into acquiring the remaining portion of this original farm and then some, 140 acres for the expansion of an international port of entry the likes of which this country has never seen! No port of entry anywhere along the United States Border north or south comes close to the size of the one in mind. The bridge that is to be expanded connects two of the smallest towns in our local international community Tornillo, Tx. and Caseta, Chih. The intended purpose has been said to re-route eastbound Semi truck traffic coming out of Juarez to avoid El Paso. However, the infrastructure and roadways between Juarez and Caseta are not capable of sustaining the heavy traffic flow of the semis; as we are with I-10. (The highway literally has speed bumps every couple hundred yards, and is subject to roadblocks by Mexico’s local cartels. Also The border towns of Caseta, Guadalupe, and Por Venir are quite literally under total control by these cartels, they have no standing local governments, cartel perpetrated executions take place on a daily basis and our local government has chosen at this time to exponentially expand one of the ports to Mexico’s “death valley”.) Due to this lack of infrastructure the maquiladoras will not be capable of transporting any goods along this highway. The expansion of this port in very few ways will benefit any members of our local community. Also please keep in mind the amount of county tax dollars that have been spent is in the millions. 3 million of which alone went to pay an out of town surveying company to survey my family’s farm. That’s right 3 million just to survey the land, that’s a total cost of over twenty one thousand four hundred and twenty dollars an acre, while the offer my family was forced to settle upon by gross miss use of eminent domain was less than half that 10,000 per acre. (Doesn’t that make you wonder into just whose pocket that three million actually went.)? In this action millions of county taxpayers dollars were spent on this project and in turn the land is to be donated to the federal government. We did not want to sell the land that four generations of Lettunich blood sweat and tears have been poured into, that land that through our own hard work and the grace of god has given us all that we have. After the county commissioners decision to go through with this, and then the subsequent giving of this land to the federal government we have filed an appeal. And the general feeling of my family members is that there is something left to do, that there is a way to fight this, and that the battle has not yet been lost. My family and I also believe that with an outcry of public opinion we can bring attention to the issue and possibly change the ultimate outcome. We are aware that completely stopping this miss use of government power and tax payers dollars is next to impossible. One of our only hopes is to possibly reduce the size of this monstrous land grab as was done in the case of the Rainville Family Farm in Vermont (as you may have heard about, through various media outlets across the country). We ask that you join us in this fight by participating in our demonstration on Monday June 7th at 2:00 at the El Paso county courthouse, as the County will ceremoniously sign our land over to the federal government. This is an outrageous display of audacity and arrogance, as until the appeal is settled the land still belongs to our family. Any and all who are able to make it your support will be a blessing and will be greatly appreciated by my entire family. After this rally or in the event that you are unable to attend we ask that you please lend your support by writing letters to our public officials, local, state, and national. We ask that you appeal to the media, as our local media quickly brushed us aside. This will mean an appeal to fox news and to talk radio show hosts who support America and it’s hard working dreamers.
With the utmost sincerity,
Steven C. Lettunich