BROWNSVILLE, Texas — Hundreds of landowners along the U.S. border with Mexico have been seeking fair prices for property that was condemned to make way for a towering security fence.

But many of them received initial offers that were far below market value. And dozens accepted those amounts without seeking any legal help, only to discover neighbors had won far larger settlements after hiring attorneys.

The disparities raise questions about the Justice Department's treatment of hundreds of landowners from Texas to California who couldn't afford lawyers and must now live with a massive steel barrier running through their farms, ranches and yards.

Federal attorneys say the initial offers represented only a starting amount that would permit the seizures to begin and could be adjusted later.