White House officials reportedly are meeting Friday with military officials and others to discuss the possibility of seizing private land along the U.S.-Mexico border under the government’s eminent domain powers in order to build President Donald Trump’s promised wall.
NBC News reports that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, is meeting with officials from the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and preparing papers that would force landowners to allow government surveyors onto private lands for the purpose of collecting soil samples and assessing the property.
Ricky Garza, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, tells NBC that there are hundreds of landowners along the border who own the land in the path of the planned border wall, and some of them are opposed to its construction.
Those that don’t sell the land willingly might be forced to via eminent domain, the government’s right to expropriate private lands for public use with sufficient compensation. In the case of the border wall, however, officials are said to preparing so-called “Declaration of Taking” papers that would allow the government to seize the land before telling landowners how much they will receive as payment.
The Declaration of Taking Act is normally reserved for emergencies, and the Trump administration has declared the situation at the border a national emergency.
“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 Garza, who is representing a group of landowners opposed to the wall. “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.”
In a White House briefing Thursday, the acting head of the Customs and Border Protection agency said 78 miles of the wall has been built in South Texas and that land acquisition is one of the bigger obstacles to further construction.
“It’s a challenge, but again, I still think that we’re on track to get the land we need for 450 miles,” Morgan said. “What I will say is that there are lawsuits out there. So, again, we’ve seen a lot of the judicial activism out there, and land acquisition is not going to be immune from that as well.”