Frontera Fund News Trump Watch

House Approves Budget and Land Grabs Begin for Border Wall

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On July 27, the House approved Trump’s spending package that includes $1.6 billion to start building his proposed border wall.

Though Trump infamously said Mexico would pay for the wall, all of the funds for the wall in this budget come from U.S. taxpayers, as every reasonable person knew would happen.

The spending package passed 235-192, mostly along party lines. Five Republicans voted against it: Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), John Duncan Jr. (Tenn.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Thomas Massie (Ky.) and Mark Sanford (S.C.). Five Democrats voted for it: Reps. Sanford Bishop (Ga.), Charlie Crist (Fla.), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Tom O’Halleran (Ariz.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.).

However, according to the New York Times, the budget is highly unlikely to pass in the Senate, where Democrats vehemently disapprove of spending money on the proposed wall.

Last month, five senators, led by Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, sent a letter to Republican Senate leaders expressing concern over the “request for a very expensive, ineffective new wall along the southern border with Mexico and new funding for the Department of Homeland Security to hire a ‘deportation force’ and increase detention beds.”

Earlier this month, the House Appropriations Committee approved money for 44,000 detention beds, 500 more Border Patrol Agents, and 1,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.

In addition, the senators stated in the letter that they were “troubled by a new funding request for the Department of Justice to hire an eminent domain strike team, which we understand to be litigators whose sole job will be to assert eminent domain and take private lands from American taxpayers to build a border wall.”

Eminent domain allows the government to seize private property and convert it to public use as long as it offers compensation to the landowners. This could affect hundreds of people in border states, particularly in Texas, and will likely harm many people who voted for Trump.

In June, the Department of Justice started putting legal notices in the Brownsville Herald  informing 200 property owners in Texas that the government would begin negotiations to buy their land or launch litigation to seize it. Many of these landowners were offered compensation for their property years ago but refused.

The Trump administration has asked Congress for 20 lawyers dedicated to filing lawsuits against property owners who refuse to sell or who demand more compensation. So much for small government.

Texas Judge Andrew Hanen – who is no friend to immigrants and initiated the lawsuit that blocked DAPA – is, however, a friend to Texas landowners. Since 2007, he’s overseen 320 cases of landowners suing the federal government over eminent domain, and most of these cases took more than three years to resolve. It’s likely Hanen will see hundreds more such cases. The federal government is in for a long and expensive legal battle if this continues.

Congress has until the end of September to pass any spending bills in order to avoid a government shutdown. Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund will keep you informed about this developing issue.