Monday, April 10, 2017
HEROIC Private Property Owners May be the Biggest Obstacle to Trump’s Wall
The Austin-American Statesman reports:
If it is built, Trump’s wall will have to cross miles of roadless mountains, traverse expansive deserts and parallel a serpentine river. But the biggest hurdle to building a coast-to-coast border barrier may not be the terrain but its inhabitants, especially those in Texas, where property rights are second to none.
There is little question the federal government has the legal justification to use its eminent domain power to build a wall. Condemnation proceedings, however, could nonetheless present a major obstacle because they can drag on for years, drive up the project’s price tag and create sympathetic victims.
“It could potentially be the nail in the coffin because the problem that the Trump administration is going to come across is the potential for public opinion backlash,” said Gerald Dickinson, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who studies federal eminent domain law...
Thanks to Texas’ unique history as an independent nation, a vast majority of land in Texas is privately held. In other western states, all unclaimed land was turned over to the federal government when the states joined the union. Under the terms of Texas’ admittance, the state retained the land and, over time, doled it out to private owners....
There are thousands of parcels of Texas land that touch the Rio Grande, county appraisal district data show. In [Dob]Cunningham’s sparsely populated Maverick County alone, there are 209 parcels on the river, including land owned by a Native American reservation, a church, prominent Texas families such as the Basses and the Briscoes, and by a deep-pocketed Democratic state representative who would relish a showdown with the Trump administration.
“I’m somebody who can muster a lot of resources to try to make sure that that doesn’t happen,” state Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, said while sitting in his living room, about 200 yards from the river. “I’m not going to go quietly into that good night.”..
Other land owners in the area are wealthier and more influential than him, he said. “I’d be very surprised if part of that wall was ever built through that property,” he said of the Indio Faith Ranch owned by the Fort Worth-based Bass family...
The Trump administration is readying for the fight. The president’s budget blueprint requested funding for 20 new Department of Justice lawyers “to pursue federal efforts to obtain the land and holdings necessary to secure the Southwest border.”
U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, said last week that he has counseled White House officials about the challenges they face in building the wall, which he supports “where barriers will work.”
“I’ve been trying to preach — and I’ve kind of got the White House and the Justice Department and other people to realize — that Texas is a very peculiar state, a very blessed state. … All that land along the river, along the border down there are owned by people and corporations. It’s private property,” said Carter, who chairs a budget-writing subcommittee that oversees the Department of Homeland Security and will play a key role in determining congressional support for the wall. “If they’re building a wall in Texas, it means they are building on private land, which means it’s harder, a lot harder.”
at 8:19 AM