Trump Admin To Seize Private Land For Border Wall Construction: Report

JASON HOPKINS IMMIGRATION AND POLITICS REPORTER

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The Trump administration is reportedly preparing to submit court filings to take over private land on the U.S.-Mexico border, allowing border wall construction to move forward.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner met with administration and military officials Friday. He discussed government takeover of private land along the Texas border, according to a report by NBC. Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was reportedly in attendance, along with Robert Salesses and Kenneth Rapuano, both of whom serve as assistant secretaries for homeland defense.

Lawyers for the Department of Defense and the Justice Department have prepared rights of entry letters, which will inform affected land owners that the U.S. government will be entering their property to asses the area, which will include soil testing and land surveys.

In most domain cases, the government settles on a specific amount of money before it takes over land, but the administration has not yet confirmed how much it will compensate landowners, according to sources who spoke with NBC. However, the White House could file under the Declaration of Taking Act, a move that would likely hasten the time it takes for the government to buy border land.

A group of Texas landowners who oppose border wall construction are fighting the Trump administration in court over the issue.

“They are probably going to get [the land] in the end, but they are asking the court to dispense with the process that is typically afforded to landowners,” said Ricky Garza, a lawyer with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “We want to make sure that all of our clients are treated with basic human decency and with respect that’s been sorely lacking in the past by this administration.”

Th Texas Civil Rights Project represents five Texas property owners whose land is in the pathway of the planned border wall.

Unlike the other southwest states, most of the land along the Texas-Mexico border are privately owned, according to Garza, making wall construction more difficult. The attorney added that there are hundreds of landowners who own property along the path of the planned border wall.

The administration is expected to submit its court filing in the coming days, marking the latest development in President Donald Trump’s bid to build wall a massive wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Immigration officials are aiming to build well over 400 miles of new wall by the end of Trump’s first term.

“So when we talk about the importance of the resources we need — including the wall, and the 76 miles of new wall system that’s been built, or the more than 450 new miles of wall we anticipate having constructed by the end of 2020 — it’s about increasing the CBP’s operational capacity …” acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner Mark Morgan said Thursday during a White House press briefing. (RELATED: ‘It’s Easily Fixed’: Trump Responds To News Of Smugglers Cutting Through Border Wall)

A massive southern border wall remains a top priority of the president’s agenda — his administration entered the longest government shutdown in history over funding for its construction in late 2018, and he later declared an emergency to secure additional government money.

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2 Responses to Trump Admin To Seize Private Land For Border Wall Construction: Report

  1. William Hicks November 20, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    If I remember the way the Los Angeles Unified School Districts method for procuring private property for public use it went this way:

    1. An offer would be made for the property at a reasonable price.

    2. If the offer was repeatedly turned down after direct methods then condemnation of the property through the courts would be initiated. Condemnation would likely result in the property owner receiving far less for their property than if they would have accepted the original bid.

    Certainly there were more than these two steps, but this provides a thumbnail sketch of how it’s done.

    Reply
  2. C E Voigtsberger November 16, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    I can’t comment on federal land condemnation cases because I just flat don’t know the law, but if it follows California procedure, which I suspect it does, the federal government just doesn’t “take” the land as this article seems to imply.

    While some of us feel that certain amendments listed in the Bill of Rights are being treated as if it is the Bill of Suggestions, there is civil law procedure for governments to obtain either easements or actual outright purchase. Opponents of condemnation like to call it a taking, but it is actually a purchase albeit perhaps not a willing sale.

    In California procedure, the public entity has the property appraised and based on the appraisal, makes an offer to the property owner. The property owner has the option of accepting the offer or making a counter offer. If the public entity and the property owner cannot reach an agreement, the public entity can file a suit in condemnation in which a jury decides, after hearing evidence from both sides, how much the property is worth in their opinion. The losing party can appeal that judgment just as they can any civil judgment.

    The property is supposed to change hands at its fair market value. Fair market value is defined as the price that a willing seller would accept from a willing buyer, neither party having to sell nor buy the property. As with any tort, money is the medium by which wrongs are righted. If you are injured by someone’s negligence, it is impossible for them to restore you to your original state. The remedy is the payment of money.

    So, if for political reasons, the ranchers don’t want to sell an easement or the property outright, of a narrow strip of land along the border of their property, the federal government can acquire title to the property over their objections provided they pay a fair market value for the property. If the ranchers don’t like the government’s offer, the government can file a condemnation action in federal court to acquire the land. The ranchers are entitled to appeal if the jury comes back with a figure they don’t like. Of course, the attorneys’ fee meter is running all the while along each step of the way and attorney fees eat significantly into the eventual price of the land.

    Reply

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