While happy campaign rhetoric made it sound like building a 2,000 foot wall along the U.S. southern border would be a walk in the park, in reality, much like repealing and replacing Obamacare and/or passing meaningful tax reform, various regulatory and other hurdles could tie up the project for years.
One such issue that threatens the viability of Trump’s ‘beautiful’ border wall stems from the fact that most of the southern border of Texas is owned by private individuals which means the U.S. government will have to take 100s landowners to court to exert its power of eminent domain. Moreover, as NBC points out, some folks live so close to the Rio Grand River that they may end up on the ‘Mexican side’ of the wall. Of course, these landowner fights could provide all the leverage needed for liberal lawyers to hold up the border wall construction forever, or at least until Trump gets voted out of office.
When the U.S. government built the fence, it had to take hundreds of landowners to court to use its power of eminent domain. That’s because unlike in other southern border states, most Texas border land is privately owned, and tough terrain and water use agreements with Mexico meant some fence was built a mile or more north of the river.
With court fights also expected over Trump’s wall, the Texas Civil Rights Project has begun signing up landowners and identifying people who might be affected.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the government must prove it wants to seize land for public use and must offer a landowner “just compensation.” While challenging the wall’s “public use” would be difficult, those who believe they’re not getting the full value of their land could take the case to court, setting up trials that could take years.
Even if they don’t win, lawyers hope to tie up the wall in court long enough that politics could effectively stop it, either in Congress or after another election.
“That’s a fight that we’ve been ready to fight,” said Efren Olivares, a lawyer with the Texas Civil Rights Project.
Of course, when it comes to conservatives in Texas, almost nothing draws more ire from voters than the idea of stripping them of their private property rights through the assertion of eminent domain. Moreover, in this specific instance, those voters will find unlikely support from any number of liberal organizations who will be all too willing to fund their legal costs to fight Trump and his wall.
In San Benito, Eloisa Tamez spent seven years trying to stop the government from running the fence through her property, which had been in her family since the 1700s. The government eventually won, but only after agreeing to pay about $56,000, many times what it initially offered. She uses a gate to access the part of her property that’s on the other side of the fence.
Now, she’s preparing for the possibility of another court battle.
“I probably have one more decade to live, and I had one decade of torture,” said Tamez, 82. “I think if they start that business again, I don’t know how much fight I’ll have left in me, but I’m going to fight it until the end.”
Something tells us that yet another Trump initiative just got demoted from a ‘near certainty’ to a ‘maybe’…right along with healthcare and tax reform.