Tracy Jan reports in the Washington Post:
“It’s going to be time consuming and costly,” said Tony Martinez, an attorney who is mayor of the border town of Brownsville, Tex. “From a political perspective, you have a lot of rich landowners who were his supporters.”
Trump, in his recent budget proposal, is calling for the addition of 20 Justice Department attorneys to “pursue federal efforts to obtain the land and holdings necessary to secure the southwest border.” The Justice Department would not expand upon the details. Of the department’s 11,000 attorneys, fewer than 20 currently work in land acquisition. Trump’s budget would double that.
The battle has been fought before. The last wave of eminent domain cases over southern border properties dates back to the 2006 Secure Fence Act authorizing President George W. Bush to erect 700 miles of fencing.
Of the roughly 400 condemnation cases stemming from that era, about 90 remain open a decade later, according to the Justice Department. Nearly all are in the Rio Grande Valley in southwest Texas.
The U.S. government has already spent $78 million compensating private landowners for 600 tracts of property for the construction of the existing pedestrian and vehicle fence, according to Customs and Border Protection. The agency estimates that it will spend another $21 million in real estate expenses associated with the remaining condemnation cases — not including approximately $4 million in Justice Department litigation costs.
. . . .
“It’s not like if you build a wall your problem is gone,” Barnard said. “We need more boots on the ground. More boats, more sensors, more drones that would be more efficient and more productive.”
It remains an open question how much sympathy Trump would have for Barnard’s situation — or that of any other private landowner standing in the way of Trump’s wall.
As a developer, Trump has wielded the power of eminent domain to make way for his properties. In Scotland, he pursued compulsory purchase to force neighbors out of their homes for the Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen. When that didn’t work, he built a five-foot-tall wooden fence — then tried to make his neighbors pay for it.
Trump also famously tried seizing the property of an elderly Atlantic City widow to make way for a limousine parking lot for his hotel and casino. He has a consistent history supporting the use of eminent domain and praised the 2005 Supreme Court decision — denounced widely by conservatives — that said the government could force property owners to sell their land to make way for private economic developments that benefit the public.
“I happen to agree with it 100 percent,” Trump said during a 2005 Fox News interview. “If you have a person living in an area that’s not even necessarily a good area, and … government wants to build a tremendous economic development, where a lot of people are going to be put to work and … create thousands upon thousands of jobs and beautification and lots of other things, I think it happens to be good.”
Duh, I thought conservatives had this “thing” about private property and government intrusions.
My prediction: Trump will long be gone, and they will still be litigating, negotiating, and wrangling over the right of way. And, as with many such “eminent domain” projects, by the time the government actually spends the time, money, and loss of good will to obtain the property, the original project will have long become obsolete (as this one in fact already is) and will be consigned to the dustbin, thus making the entire exercise a costly “wild goose chase.” Talk about waste, fraud, and abuse!