Private Land Is Being Seized in Texas to Build the Border Wall


The House of Representatives unveiled their Fiscal Year 2018 budget for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week, which allocates $1.6 billion to begin construction of a border wall along the entire Southern border with Mexico.

However, being provided the funds is not enough to complete the project. To achieve a complete and uninterrupted border wall, the federal government will need to seize land from hundreds of property owners who have called the border region home for generations.

The effort is already underway. Just last month, the Department of Justice (DOJ) began posting legal notices in the Brownsville Herald to over 200 property owners whose land is in the path of the border in an effort to begin negotiations to purchase the land or to begin litigation to seize it. DHS has also begun reissuing letters to property owners previously contacted a decade ago offering compensation for their land.

This practice may seem appalling, but it is not a new tactic. The first round of land seizures happened a decade ago when Congress passed the Secure Fence Act in 2006. This bill authorized the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to build at least 700 miles of a border wall along the border. However, in Texas and specifically near the Rio Grande River, much of the land is privately owned, which forces the government to seize land through a process called eminent domain.

Eminent domain gives the government the right to take private property and convert it into public use or, in this case, to build a border wall. But the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution only allows the government to exercise this power if they give “just compensation.”

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