Democrats Introduce Legislative Package to Protect Property Owners Against the Trump Administration’s Border Land Grab
(WASHINGTON) – Today, Democrats introduced three homeland security bills to safeguard the rights of American citizen landowners and protect their property from eminent domain actions by the Trump Administration as it plans barrier construction in the President’s reckless pursuit of a border wall. Currently, there is nothing to stop the Trump Administration from carrying out a historic Federal land grab. These bills, if enacted, would protect Americans from the costs that President Trump’s border wall would inflict.
The three bills are:
- H.R. 1232 – The Rescinding DHS’ Waiver Authority for Barriers Act, introduced by Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Chairwoman of the Committee’s Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations Subcommittee, will take away overly broad authority granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security to unilaterally waive “all legal requirements” to construct barriers along the border. This authority can include waiving the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act. By rescinding this authority, the Trump Administration will have to comply with all environmental, historical preservation, and related laws intended to protect the border region and its residents.
- H.R. 1233 – The Borderland Takings Defense Fund Act, introduced by Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), member of the Committee on Homeland Security, will direct DHS to set up a $20 million fund for legal services for low-income landowners whose property the Federal government wants to take for barrier construction. Many private landowners living on the U.S.-Mexico border do not have the means to fight the Federal government. Legal representation is essential. In fact, media reported that in one case in which landowners had representation, the government ended up paying $4.7 million pursuant to a court order for a parcel of land for which the original offer was just $233,000.
- H.R. 1234 – The Preventing the Taking of Americans’ Land to Build Trump’s Wall Act, introduced by Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX), will ensure that landowners are fully and properly compensated before the Trump Administration seizes their land to build the President’s wall. Under the current system, the Federal government can make a low offer for property and file condemnation proceedings to quickly take land.
“Over the last few months, President Trump and Secretary Nielsen have made no secret of their desire to build a needless and ineffective wall along our Southern Border," said Chairwoman Rice."But what they didn’t tell the American people is that this vanity project would come at the direct expense of our nation's critical environmental protection laws. My bill would ensure that this blatant and reckless disregard for our environment does not go unchecked. It would repeal the Secretary of Homeland Security's authority to unilaterally waive this landmark legislation for the construction of any barrier along the Southern border and require the Trump Administration to comply with all environmental and historic preservation laws intended to protect the border region and its residents. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this package of bills through our Committee.”
“Constructing a wall on the southwest border means that the government will take private land from families and ranchers,” said Congresswoman Demings. “Our nation has a long and dark history of land seizures targeting poor and marginalized communities who lack the resources to fight for fair compensation under the law. My parents, who worked extremely hard and sacrificed much to save enough money to purchase their land, had their property seized after calling it home for over 40 years. They were heartbroken. This bill will create a fund to help private landowners defend their property rights and be justly compensated. Without professional legal assistance—which many families cannot afford—there is a strong likelihood that they will be taken advantage of. In spite of the President’s history of preying on working families, this legislation will give families a fighting chance and help to level the playing field.”
“The border wall threatens the rights of landowners all along our southern border. The Federal government can quickly seize their land and simply promise future compensation,” said Congressman Vela. “This bill bars such practices and prohibits the Federal government from taking a private citizen’s land until the landowner receives payment that he or she accepts as just compensation.”
“Democrats support proven and effective border security programs, but we will not sit idly by while the Administration aggressively takes the land it wants from border landowners just to fulfill a campaign promise,” said Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS). “The timely homeland security legislation introduced today would protect the property rights of thousands of American citizens.”
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(Homeland) Adam Comis at 202-225-9978
(Rice) Michael Aciman at 202-225-5516
(Demings) Dan Gleick at 202-225-2176
(Vela) Mickeala Carter at 202-225-9901