The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun to amass land along the United States-Mexico border in Texas as the agency makes preparations for the yet to be funded border wall expansion ordered by President Trump.
Texas Observer reports that landowners along the border have begun to receive “Declaration of Taking” notices offering cash payouts for land along the border. The DHS letters also threaten the use of eminent domain to take the land if landowners refuse to agree to sell—landowners would still be compensated for their land in the event DHS utilizes eminent domain to acquire the property.
The move is potentially controversial because many of the areas that do not already host sections of the existing border wall lie along sensitive or inaccessible terrain.
Texas Observer reports the story of local landowner Maria Flores in the community of Los Ebanos near the Rio Grande. The Rio Grande forms part of the border between the U.S. and Mexico and the lands abutting the river were—until recently—protected from any type of new construction due to fears that structures would increase the likelihood of damage to local communities were the river to flood. That changed in 2012 when the American-controlled contingent of the International Boundary and Water Commission that oversees the U.S.-Mexico border area agreed to allow DHS build the wall along the Rio Grande floodplain.
See Texas Observer for full text of the Declaration of Taking letter.