The Trump administration is preparing to submit court filings as early as next week as a necessary step toward seizing private land in Texas for its wall on the border with Mexico, NBC reported Thursday. Administration officials still haven’t said how much the government will compensate affected landowners.
“I still think we’re on track to get the land we need for 450 miles” of border wall, Acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan told reporters on Thursday.
The government may file to appropriate the land in federal court in Texas under the Declaration of Taking Act, which would expedite the appropriation process. The law, which is meant to be used in emergencies, allows the federal government to take over the land before beginning negotiations with its former owners over compensation.
Department of Justice and Department of Defense attorneys have already prepared letters of rights of entry, which inform property owners of the government’s impending use of their land. Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is scheduled to meet with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers chief of engineers Todd Semonite, Assistant Defense Secretaries Kenneth Rapuano and Robert Salesses, and other officials Friday at the White House to discuss taking over lands on the southern border.
The White House has previously faced legal challenges to its efforts to fund construction of the border wall. In December of 2018, Democrats refused to allocate funding for the wall in the 2019 budget, and the ensuing standoff with President Trump led to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Trump eventually relented, deciding instead to declare a state of emergency in order to allocate funds from the Pentagon’s budget, in a move a federal judge deemed “unlawful” last month.