Border-State Lawmakers Try to Block Eminent Domain from Being Used for Wall

A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent passes along a section of border fence in Hidalgo, Texas, on Nov. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

WASHINGTON – Two Democratic congressman have teamed up on a bill that would prevent the federal government from violating the property rights of residents who do not want portions of the border wall or barrier located on their property.


Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) are proposing “The Protecting the Property Rights of Border Landowners Act,” which would “amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to prohibit the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General from using eminent domain to acquire land for the purpose of constructing a wall, or other physical barrier, along the international border between the United States and Mexico, and for other purposes.”

On a conference call organized by America’s Voice on Wednesday about private land use for the construction of an “illogical” border wall, the representatives were asked for their response to ranchers in Arizona who support having a border wall on their property for security reasons.

“There’s also many ranchers who do not want a border wall and there’s also many families that do not want a border wall that would basically obstruct their property, and you could have security without a border wall,” Gallego said.

“We do believe in increasing border security where it is possible, but it does not necessarily have to be a wall,” he added. “A wall will essentially be a structure that is going to memorialize Trump’s xenophobia but not necessarily bring security, and wasting money on that is not a responsible use of tax dollars.”

Gallego said that “we don’t know” if President Trump’s rhetoric on illegal immigration is the reason that illegal border crossings are at a 5-year low while the number of deportations has dropped to a 10-year low.


“We don’t know exactly why there has been a drop, but there has been a drop. But it actually gives us some really good education about what we should not invest in, not invest in a border wall that is not going to help any,” he said.

“Just because it was a campaign promise – he said Mexico was going to pay for it – does not mean that we as the Congress need to go to validate that dumb campaign promise and also invalidate people’s property rights,” he added. “So what’s going to happen even further down the road? We don’t know.”

Gallego was asked if he thinks illegal crossings are going to rise again if the wall isn’t completed.

“No, I don’t see a correlation,” he replied. “A border wall is dumb by all levels and measures.”

Gallego, whose district includes Phoenix, claimed that Republicans like Trump need there to be problems at the border to continue to win elections.

“At the end of the day there is no [border] security solution because it’s a political problem. There needs to be a border problem in order for people like Donald Trump to be elected, and there will forever be a border problem for those type of people instead of truly dealing with this in the cheapest manner – which is comprehensive immigration reform, which would actually boost our economy and definitely drop illegal crossings if it creates a manner in which people can come to this country in a legal manner and in a predictable manner,” he said.


O’Rourke said there could be a relationship between Trump’s rhetoric on illegal immigration and the drop in illegal border crossings.

“Let’s be honest, there could be a correlation. There’s probably also or could be a correlation with the fact that under the Obama administration he deported more people from this country than any president before him,” he said. “I think that probably had the intended effect from that administration of ‘sending a signal’ back to the [Central American] Northern Triangle, so I don’t know that you can give any president or person or set of conditions credit.”

O’Rourke said some Border Patrol agents support more physical barriers while others do not agree. Gallego doubts Border Patrol agents would support the new eminent domain legislation.

“I do not believe Border Patrol is going to support our bill,” he said. “The Border Patrol is supporting it [the wall]; that’s their right to do it, but it doesn’t make a difference to me because I still think it’s bad policy and it’s bad for border security policy.”



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