The Trump administration is taking land owned by private owners near the Southern border to build Trump’s border wall. Three years after Trump supporters were chanting “build that wall’’, his administration is engaged in an increasingly aggressive land grab along the Southwest border to execute one of his campaign promise.
According to the federal court record, the Trump administration filed 29 eminent domain suits for his border-wall construction this year, up from 11 each of the past two years, through November 15. Four of those suits were filed in Texas. Eminent domain is the right of a government to seize private land for public use, as long as the land owners are compensated. However, many land owners have express their unwillingness to give out their lands and even threaten to take the matter to court.
The border wall construction started last month in the Rio Grande Valley. The US Customs and Border Protection expects are planning to build about three miles of new wall over the next few months, an agency official told CNN recently.
According to the law, the government has the right to take the land and offer “just compensation” which should be based on fair market value, typically established through evaluations The CBP leaders have called this process of acquiring land “a challenge’’. Some of the land owners are in disagreement with giving out their lands either because they don’t want to lose because it’s their heritage and it holds high sentimental value while others are taking it to court because they want more compensation from the government.
According to two US defense officials, the Trump administration sent letters to dozens of private landowners in Texas and other border states in order to assess their land for future border wall. “The Right of Entry letter grants the government permission to enter specified private lands to conduct environmental assessments, property surveys, appraisals, geotechnical, and other exploratory work to facilitate future land acquisition and construction of a border barrier on those lands,” US Army spokesperson Cheryle Rivas told CNN.
Also, the Texas Civil Rights Project has run radio and newspaper advertisements and has also sent out mass mailings in various places along the border to try to reach landowners who may be receiving the letters. “If you don’t answer the letter, you get a home visit from a Border Patrol vehicle, pulling up to the house with an officer with the Army Corps of Engineers, an armed Border Patrol agent and often someone from the Department of Justice as well,” he said.