Trump Administration to Use Eminent Domain to Build Border Wall in Texas

Posted: Nov 18, 2019 7:30 AM

The Trump administration is preparing legal paperwork to seize private lands in Texas to build the border wall. NBC News reported the legal action could come as early as this week.

Acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan told reporters that he expected the land acquisition to be a challenge, saying there's "a lot of the judicial activism out there, and land acquisition is not going to be immune from that as well." But Morgan told reporters the administration was on track to get the 450 miles of land needed for the new wall.

(Via NBC News) 

In a typical eminent domain case, the government agrees on an amount of money before it seizes the land. In the past, the government has paid landowners along the Texas-Mexico border $100 for 18 months of unfettered, unannounced access, according to Ricky Garza, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project. Garza's group represents five Texas landowners whose property is in the path of the planned wall and who oppose its construction.

According to two officials familiar with the process, however, government attorneys may file under the Declaration of Taking Act in federal court in Texas, which could expedite the process for the government purchase of private land along the border.

If the government files under that law, and its action survives expected legal challenges, the title would automatically transfer to the government. The government has to name the price it expects to pay, but actual negotiations with the landowners about the price don't begin until after the land is taken.

President Trump declared a national emergency on the southern border back in February, citing both humanitarian and national security crises. In July, the Supreme Court blocked a ruling by a federal judge in California, allowing the administration to divert $2.5 billion away from Pentagon funding to help build the wall. A Texas federal district court ruled in October that Trump's emergency declaration was unlawful, but the impact of the decision remains to be seen as the case works its way through the courts.