For 2½ centuries, Cecilia Benavides’ family has owned land tangled with honey mesquite trees and towering clumps of cactus on a sweeping bend of the Rio Grande.

Generations of family have gathered by the water’s edge to swim, fish for catfish and alligator gar and hold Easter jamborees.

But this land is considered prime territory for something more than swimming and fishing: For years, the federal government has pondered a way to build a stronger barrier across it to halt illegal immigration from Mexico.

In February, federal authorities made the long-looming threat concrete. A letter from the U.S. attorney in southern Texas informed the Benavides family that the government intends to seize a 60-foot-wide strip of the property to build new sections of a border wall.

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