Los Ebanos, Texas. — One obstacle to President Trump’s pledged border wall is a little park in Los Ebanos. Aleida Garcia and her husband have converted part of their 30-acre property into the small park, which features a panoramic vista over the Rio Grande Valley. About ten years ago, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), under George W. Bush’s 2008 Secure Fence Act, attempted to seize that part of the Garcia’s land to build a border wall. The family fought the government in court, and DHS finally dropped the case just this year.
But, Mrs. Garcia has reportedly acknowledged to the New York Times (NYT) that President Trump’s plans might once again put her family’s property in jeopardy. “We’re just waiting…”, she reported told the NYT reporter. The Garcias are braced to resist all renewed federal attempts to take the property through eminent domain actions. And, they’ve got help. In at least ninety lawsuits, landowners have been battling government attempts to seize of their properties in in southern Texas since 2008.
Numerous Texas politicians support the private litigants. After all, in Texas, private ownership of land is held as a rather sacred right. State Representative Henry Cuellar reportedly stated to the NYT, “Here in Texas, we take the concept of private property very seriously,” And, he asserted, “Texans stand up for ourselves when the federal government tries to take what is ours.” This widespread local legal opposition to the border wall could frustrate construction plans for years as lawsuits grind through the courts.
But, both President Trump and Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly have asserted that the wall can be built within 24 months. However, the recently passed Congressional spending bill does not include any allocation of funds for the wall construction. Now, newly surfacing legal disputes, along with the existing cases, and the absence of funding, all together make the president’s projected timeframe improbable—especially since the Texas landowners’ mission is to block construction by staying in court until Trump is out of office.
The Texan property owners are sharply aware that their region is a passage for drug smugglers. Some residents have even been crime victims. Yet, their group presents one of the president’s strongest challenges to building a border wall. They maintain that there is already heavy border security, in the form of patrolling by federal and local authorities and drones. They argue that the wall would be of little added security value. Their position is that their land would be lost for a wall that would be of merely symbolic effect.