The Trump administration is looking to seize land from Texans in order to build a border wall — and now, some are fighting back to stop it from happening.
Becky Jones, a Texas landowner, is preparing to take the Trump administration to court to keep her land, she told the New York Times this week. Her decision came after receiving a letter from the government demanding she allow officials to survey her farmland as the first step towards seizing it to build a border wall.
Jones told the Times that the border wall would harm wildlife in the area, which is near the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge. A 2019 congressional spending bill specified property within that refuge is off limits from a border wall, according to the Times.
Richard Drawe, another Texas landowner, took a different route, grudgingly accepting a Trump administration financial offer for land his grandfather purchased in the 1920s. Drawe’s family owns a farm near the Rio Grande river with breathtaking views, according to the Times, but a future border wall will ruin that view.
“We just finally gave up,” Drawe told the Times. “If they offered me a million dollars to build the wall, I would refuse it if I knew they wouldn’t build it. I don’t want the money. This is my life here.”
Jones and Drawe are not alone in lamenting Trump’s efforts to seize private land for his border wall. According to the Texas Tribune, many other landowners are fighting the Trump administration’s efforts to survey their land for a border wall.
Ricky Garza, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, told the Tribune that he has several clients currently fighting the Trump administration in court over the issue of property access to survey land.
“Hell no, we’re not signing anything,” David Acevedo, a landowner near Loredo, told the Tribune when he was asked if he would give permission to federal agents to survey his land.
According to the Associated Press, the Trump administration has ramped up efforts to take land from private citizens, filing three lawsuits in December alone. The Times noted that courts generally defer to the executive branch in cases of emergencies, meaning most families will eventually be forced to settle for compensation for their land, even if they don’t want to lose it.
Donald Trump made a campaign promise in 2016 to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. At the time, he vowed that Mexico would pay for the wall, but that plan fell through when Mexico flatly refused to do so. Trump later declared a national emergency along the southern border to force through his plans for a wall and is using billions of dollars allocated to the military to pay for it.
Trump promised up to 450 miles of new border wall would be built by the end of 2020, according to the Times. However, thus far, the administration has build zero miles of new wall, and has simply replaced roughly 90 miles of older barriers.
The administration counts those replacements as “new wall,” according to the Times.
Property owners in the region say the fight to keep their lands is nothing new.
Pamela Rivas, a landowner near the Los Ebanos port of entry to Mexico, has been fighting to keep her land since the George W. Bush administration first tried to take it from her, her son, Michael Maldonado, told the Times.
“The longer that we can endure it, maybe something might change,” Maldonado said. “Maybe a new administration comes in and says, ‘you know, we’re not going to deal with this.'”
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.