The biggest obstacles to the construction of President Trump’s border wall aren’t blue-state politicians like California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Rather, Texas landowners who have refused to fork over their border plots are creating the biggest problems for the Trump Administration, according to the New York Times.
Richard Drawe, the owner of a border plot in Progreso, Texas, told the NYT that he decided to capitulate and accept the government’s offer for his land rather than engage in a drawn-out legal battle.
Two days after signing over his land to the federal government, Drawe paused with his wife and mother on a levee that his family had owned for nearly a century.
A border wall that he reluctantly agreed to put on his land will soon divide this Texan family from the whole scene: the levee, a lake, an onion field and all of those birds.
Mr. Drawe, 69, doubts the wall will do much to stop illegal immigration, and though he supports the president who ordered it, he believes that the construction will “ruin” his life. But selling the land early on seemed better and cheaper than facing the government in court, only to have it take the land anyway, he reasoned. The wall, the lights and the roads will be built on about a dozen acres that his grandfather bought in the 1920s, and that will cut him off from the priceless views of the Rio Grande that he cherishes.
“We just finally gave up,” he said. “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.”
With the election less than a year away, President Trump is scrambling to fulfill his promise to build 450 miles of border wall by the end of next year.
The other challenges still facing Trump’s “big, beautiful” wall include an ongoing investigation into government contracts and a legal ruling blocking emergency access to Defense Department funds that Trump tried to re-allocate to the wall.
The nationwide injunction has, for now, curtailed work on 175 miles of wall from Laredo to El Paso, and from Yuma to El Centro.
According to Customs and Border Protection, the administration has thus far only built 93 miles of the wall, nearly all of it on federal land where dilapidated barriers once stood. Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of the CBP, insisted that the government will meet its goal for the wall.
“It’s hard right now to say whether we’re still going to meet that goal,” Mr. Morgan said of building the wall by 2021. “But I’m confident we’re going to be close.”
The US brought more than 300 cases against landowners for their property after President George W. Bush signed a bill to begin installing fencing along the border in 2006, according to a Texas nonprofit. Some 46 of those cases are still ongoing.
Years ago, the government reached a settlement to acquire the land of most of the other property owners, and some of the fencing is now being reinforced to transform it into a veritable wall. The Trump Administration picked up where Bush left off, filing 48 lawsuits to help it begin work on other parcels of property.
Even if landowners decide to put up a fight, their odds of success aren’t great, thanks to a little something called “Eminent Domain,” as one attorney who spoke to the NYT pointed out.
“They’re going to acquire the land for their wall, whether you negotiate with them upfront or they end up filing a lawsuit and taking it by a declaration of taking,” said Roy Brandys, an attorney specializing in eminent domain who represented Mr. Drawe.
For Drawe and his family, the worst part of the deal is that the government isn’t building the wall directly on the border; instead, the wall will be situated well within US territory, cutting Drawe and his family off from even more of their land, while also spoiling the family’s view of the Rio Grande.
If the wall goes up, it’ll be the new border, Drawe reckons, meaning cartel members will likely continue raining down packages of drugs and other contraband across his property.
Becky Jones, a property owner in California who has decided to fight the federal government, put it this way: “Forget deplorable Americans,” she said, “you’re disposable Americans if you happen to be on the south side of the wall.”