The Texas Border Coalition, which includes the mayors of Eagle Pass, Brownsville, El Paso, Laredo and Hidalgo, filed the suit in federal court in Washington on Friday, asking a judge to block construction of 70 miles of border fences and walls in the Rio Grande Valley.

The lawsuit seeks class-action certification and accuses Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Customs and Border Patrol officials of not telling landowners they had the right to negotiate the price for the federal use of their land, concealing how they decide what constitutes a reasonable price for land seized for the fence and showing favoritism to wealthy or well-connected landowners.

 “What we haven’t done is we haven’t given everybody a veto,” Mr. Chertoff said. “If somebody says they prefer an open border, we don’t necessarily give them the right to make that judgment because the consequences of an open border are smuggling of drugs and human beings into this country.”

But Chad Foster, the mayor of Eagle Pass and chairman of the coalition, said that Homeland Security, under pressure to build a fence, is ignoring less-intrusive and more practical measures to secure the border with Mexico.  

Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner said the department had no intention to back down from its plans.

“We’ve nearly bent over backward to work with landowners,” she said in a written statement. “Accusations to the contrary are either ill-informed or just plain wrong.”