U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) leaders are still insisting President Trump will build 450 miles of new border wall before 2021, but few people in southern Texas think that's realistic. The obstacles to Trump's wall "include an investigation into construction contracts, funding delays, and a recent legal decision blocking emergency access to Defense Department funds to build it," The New York Times reports, but acquiring private lands "may be the tallest barrier standing between the president and his wall."
"Most of the borderlands in Texas are privately owned, unlike states to the west where a strip along the border is mostly federal property," NPR notes. In Texas' Rio Grande Valley, the Trump administration has acquired only 3 of the 110 miles of private borderland it wants for the wall. The government has sued 48 landowners for access to survey their property, the first step toward confiscation.
The government can probably seize most of the land, eventually, using eminent domain, and that inevitability has prompted some Texas landowners to reluctantly sell part of their property to the feds. "Adding to the heartache," the Times reports, in many cases "the construction is not on the border, which runs along the Rio Grande. It is well within the American side." Some landowners are fighting Trump in court.
"Construction has already fallen behind schedule because of how difficult it is to take private land," NPR reports. "Disorderly property records, complications with landowners, and a cumbersome condemnation process have slowed progress to a snail's pace. That's despite an army of federal land specialists trying to rush the process to please the president."
"Federal entities that acquire property have a process," Hyla Head, a former real estate specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who spearheaded former President George W. Bush's push to seize borderlands in 2008, tells NPR. "You may not like it, but this is tried and true. We have laws to protect property owners." Of the more than 300 cases the Bush team brought against landowners, 46 are still open. Learn more in NPR's report below.