by Jason Hopkins
The Trump administration is reportedly preparing to submit court filings to take over private land on the U.S.-Mexico border, allowing border wall construction to move forward.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner met with administration and military officials Friday. He discussed government takeover of private land along the Texas border, according to a report by NBC. Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was reportedly in attendance, along with Robert Salesses and Kenneth Rapuano, both of whom serve as assistant secretaries for homeland defense.
Lawyers for the Department of Defense and the Justice Department have prepared rights of entry letters, which will inform affected land owners that the U.S. government will be entering their property to asses the area, which will include soil testing and land surveys.
In most domain cases, the government settles on a specific amount of money before it takes over land, but the administration has not yet confirmed how much it will compensate landowners, according to sources who spoke with NBC. However, the White House could file under the Declaration of Taking Act, a move that would likely hasten the time it takes for the government to buy border land.
A group of Texas landowners who oppose border wall construction are fighting the Trump administration in court over the issue.
“They are probably going to get [the land] in the end, but they are asking the court to dispense with the process that is typically afforded to landowners,” said Ricky Garza, a lawyer with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “We want to make sure that all of our clients are treated with basic human decency and with respect that’s been sorely lacking in the past by this administration.”
Th Texas Civil Rights Project represents five Texas property owners whose land is in the pathway of the planned border wall.
Unlike the other southwest states, most of the land along the Texas-Mexico border are privately owned, according to Garza, making wall construction more difficult. The attorney added that there are hundreds of landowners who own property along the path of the planned border wall.
The administration is expected to submit its court filing in the coming days, marking the latest development in President Donald Trump’s bid to build wall a massive wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
Immigration officials are aiming to build well over 400 miles of new wall by the end of Trump’s first term.
“So when we talk about the importance of the resources we need — including the wall, and the 76 miles of new wall system that’s been built, or the more than 450 new miles of wall we anticipate having constructed by the end of 2020 — it’s about increasing the CBP’s operational capacity …” acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner Mark Morgan said Thursday during a White House press briefing.
A massive southern border wall remains a top priority of the president’s agenda — his administration entered the longest government shutdown in history over funding for its construction in late 2018, and he later declared an emergency to secure additional government money.
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Jason Hopkins is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.