In a typical eminent domain case, the government agrees on an amount of money before it seizes the land. In the past, the government has paid landowners along the Texas-Mexico border $100 for 18 months of unfettered, unannounced access, according to Ricky Garza, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project. Garza’s group represents five Texas landowners whose property is in the path of the planned wall and who oppose its construction.
According to two officials familiar with the process, however, government attorneys may file under the Declaration of Taking Act in federal court in Texas, which could expedite the process for the government purchase of private land along the border.
If the government files under that law, and its action survives expected legal challenges, the title would automatically transfer to the government. The government has to name the price it expects to pay, but actual negotiations with the landowners about the price don’t begin until after the land is taken.
The Declaration of Taking Act is meant to be reserved for emergencies.