On the Texas border, the feds are examining properties for you-know-what

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

Most of the discussion of the proposed border wall focuses on the 10,000 foot, federal level questions surrounding it. Will Congress approve the program? How much will the whole thing cost and how will it be paid for? (You lose three points in the quiz if you just shouted “Mexico!” at your screen.) But assuming we’re moving forward, there are other complications which crop up at the granular level. Every stretch of the border on the American side consists of land that belongs to somebody. Portions are state or federal land and parks. Others are municipal properties or even privately owned. Each and every one needs to be sorted out before the first bulldozers arrive.

It sounds as if Uncle Sam is planning ahead. The Washington Times reports that people along the Texas border have been getting some odd requests in the mail, asking for appointments to “survey” the border property and possibly chat with them about it. What do you suppose that could mean?

More property owners along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas say they’ve received notices from the federal government asking to review their land, which could be used for border wall construction.

KENS-TV reports residents in the town of Escobares received letters from the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection a few weeks ago to get their consent to survey their land.

Rio Grande City School District board president Daniel Garcia says the district got a letter in May about district property that’s being considered for “tactical infrastructure, such as a border wall.”

If you do some digging around, the local press outlets in a few of these towns are offering more details. One such example comes from the town of Escobares, Texas. Residents there have been getting these notices mailed to them and reactions are clearly varied. Some see an opportunity to unload troublesome property or help out the government while others are taking a dim view. (KENS-TV)

KENS-TV reported residents in the town of Escobares, including Mayor Noel Escobar, received letters from the Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection a few weeks ago to get their consent to survey their land.

“I walk out the back door and what I’m going to see is a 30-foot fence,” Escobar said…

Roma resident Felix Rodriguez said he was visited by a government employee surveying his land earlier this year, offering $300 for a portion of his 500-square-foot property. He wants at least $1,500.

While I couldn’t verify it, I suspect that there must have been a typo in the report from Felix Rodriguez. He owns a 500-square-foot property on the Mexican border? Could you even put a trailer on a piece of land that size? That works out to less than 40×40, or maybe 20×80 if it’s just a strip of undeveloped land. But his counteroffer of $1,500 vs the government’s offer of $300 is probably typical of what we’ll have to deal with all along the border. People will always try to snag as much as they can in a government deal like this, but there have to be limits or the price quickly surges beyond practicality.

If deals can’t be struck, then we may wind up with undesirable cases of eminent domain, which conservatives should shy away from where possible in the post-Kelo era. Either way, none of this is going to be pretty and the media will be ready and waiting with stories of homeowners “unfairly evicted from their lands, all in the name of Trump’s wall.” What a mess.

The other complaints will likely be of the NIMBY style, such as was brought up by Major Escobar in the linked article. He’s upset that he’s going to walk out his back door and, “see a 30-foot fence.” Well, Mr. Mayor, you do realize that you live on the border, right? Isn’t there some sort of a fence there already? If not, are you simply allowing a stream of illegal aliens to traipse across your property every night?

Complications aside, I suppose it’s good to see that the government is doing the legwork to prepare for more wall construction. But it’s going to be a hot mess in political terms no matter how well we do on the funding.