Three years into Donald Trump's flagship campaign promise of building a wall along the US-Mexico border, the United States government has ramped up its efforts to seize private properties in Texas. As most of the land along the Rio Grande river forms the border in Texas, it has become more difficult for the government to acquire land because they are either privately held or they have been declared environmentally sensitive.
The Department of Justice lawyers have moved three lawsuits to acquire property from landowners but no land has been taken so far. The agency said that it is ready to file many more lawsuits to take private lands required to build the border wall. Opponents in Congress are lobbying against the border wall to limit funding and prevent construction in areas like the National Butterfly Center, the historic Catholic Chapel, and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.
The United States government has built 145 km of wall so far since Donald Trump took office in 2016. The US is planning to complete its goal of building almost 800 km of wall along its Mexico border by 2020. The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has said that the agency is planning to build around 724 km of wall by the end of 2020 and another 95 km will be under construction.
The government in the United States is required to pay compensation to anyone whose land is taken for public use, says the Fifth Amendment of the US constitution. The government has already deposited $93,449 with the court for 12.6 acres of land. The justice department argued that the government can give any amount it deems fair with the court. However, landowners are close to settling a deal with the government.
Some landowners support the construction of the wall but they are worried about losing their own property to the 'No Man's Land' between the wall and the river. The Rio Grande Valley is one of the poorest regions in the country and the lawyer of six landowners has accused the government of using state power against people who have very little.
(With inputs from AP)