As the federal government moves full steam ahead with plans for the construction of a wall along the entire border between the United States and Mexico, fulfilling one of President Trump’s biggest campaign promises, Texan landowners are, reportedly, receiving letters from the government ordering they turn over their land for the project.
The Texas Observer highlighted the story of Yvette Salinas, who is one of many individuals who owns land that runs along the border between Mexico and the United States.
The magazine reported, “The week before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Yvette Salinas received a letter she had been dreading for years: legal notice that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants to build a border wall on her family’s land near Los Ebanos.”
Salinas called the letter “scary,” saying that it feels like she “has to sign it.” Indeed, if she refuses to negotiate with the government and, eventually, give up her land, then she will likely be dragged to court and the government may simply seize her family’s land through the powers of “eminent domain.”
Ironically, President Trump himself has a long history of abusing eminent domain. Eminent domain, basically, is the legal precept that allows governments to seize private land if they deem that land necessary for some public purpose. Trump, however, as the right wing National Review details in a 2011 write up, has ganged up with the government on a number of occasions to use the already volatile principle of eminent domain to force low to moderate income people to bend to the wishes of the Trump Organization.
The most infamous of these cases took place in the 1990s, when Trump sought, unsuccessfully, to acquire the property at which an elderly woman named Vera Coking lived. He wanted to expand his Atlantic City casino, but Coking didn’t want to sell her land at any of the prices named by Trump, and instead ended up in court facing him off. Coking won and got to keep her house, while Trump’s Atlantic City casino never got that expansion.
President Trump has brought the philosophy to the White House that allowed him to passionately pursue a goal of bulldozing an elderly New Jersey woman’s home, and it’s now being applied to his plans for a border wall.
The woman highlighted by the Texas Observer has faced a similar challenge from the government on another occasion, when the Bush Administration sought to obtain her family’s land to put up a border fence under the provisions of the 2006 Secure Fence Act. The Obama Administration dropped the case against Salinas, however, and her family got to keep her land for the time being. (It’s the 2006 Secure Fence Act that, presumably, gave the government the ability to send the newest demand to Salinas before Trump took office.)
Both back then and now, the government offered Salinas’s family 2,900 dollars for their 1.2 acres on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande river, a price that the magazine highlighting Salinas’s case calls “very, very low.”
Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have threatened to force a government shutdown over their concerns over how the proposed border wall will be funded.
Featured Image via Michael Reynolds/Pool via Bloomberg/Getty Images.