As plans are moving forward to build a border wall between Mexico and the United States, we wonder, what about the fence?
A plan for a fence between the two countries began more than a decade ago during President George W. Bush’s administration. At the time, it had the support of many Democrats. The Secure Fence Act, which was signed into law in 2006, set aside money for fencing to cover one-third of the roughly 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico.
Of the 650 miles of fence that were eventually built, just 100 miles of them are in Texas. The uneven course of the Rio Grande, rough terrain and private land ownership created a host of engineering and legal obstacles and required hundreds of deals with individual property owners for some of their land.
And some of those deals with landowners are still on the table because some have successfully resisted the fence for a decade. While the Justice Department said it hasn’t started any cases related to a new wall, it remains committed to settling around 90 cases still pending.
One settlement completed last week was for $137,500 for about 1-1/2 acres near a golf resort near Brownsville. The government didn’t build a fence on the resort but did so on much of the land nearby. It then took nearly a decade to agree on compensation, even though the land was seized under eminent domain.
The law allows the government to seize private property for a public purpose as long as it pays the landowner what the Constitution calls “just compensation,” but that process can take years if a landowner contests the seizure.
“It is exceedingly frustrating to the landowner to have to wait nine years to resolve a case and to have the government come in and take possession of it that long before he receives so much as a single dollar,” said Ken McKay, a lawyer who represented the family partnership that owned the land.
So, here’s the question. If the problems surrounding building a fence along only a portion of the border between the two countries has outlasted a Republican president, a Democrat president and Congress that has been controlled by one party or the other during that span, how tough is it going to be to build a wall?
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports tighter controls on immigration, told The Associated Press that a border wall presents a big problem with hundreds of landowners and lawyers already preparing to fight it.
“It’s going to take longer and end up being more difficult than the president originally thought,” he said.
It’s easy, too often, to hear political promises as easy solutions to problems. Illegal immigration, of course, presents a problem to the nation and the state of Texas, as well as other southern and western states.
But often, too, we see those political promises create as large a problem for the government and the people. If the plan to build a fence has created problems that has not been resolved during times when either party is in power, just what problems are a wall going to create?
President Donald Trump has promised that Mexico will pay for the wall. But we wonder, just who is going finish paying for the fence?
• Dave Mathews