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Owners have already been notified of impending land expropriation – as the US moves to build its Mexico border wall

Bryan Logan , Business Insider US
 Jun 22, 2018, 05:28 PM

A volunteer from the Minuteman Project stands near an American flag placed in the barbed wire fence which divides the U.S./Mexican border April 4, 2005 near Noco, Sonora Mexico. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
  • American federal authorities are said to be gearing up to seize private land in the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas to make room for the wall US President Donald Trump wants to build on the US-Mexico border.
  • One challenge is figuring out who owns what.
  • The US government has previously used a law that allows it to seize land first, and make payment later.

The American federal government is moving to seize private land in a section of southern Texas to make room for US President Donald Trump's border wall.

The land seizures would take place in the Rio Grande Valley, the Texas Tribune reported on Thursday. Notices had already been sent to 167 landowners.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, the Democrat who represents Texas' 28th Congressional District, attended a briefing where federal authorities announced the land seizures.

"They said they got the money, they got the authority, and they're going to move on trying to acquire the land," Cuellar told the Texas Tribune.

During congressional testimony in April, US Customs and Border Patrol commissioner Kevin McAleenan cited some of the challenges surrounding land seizures in the region. He said those challenges sometimes have little to do with settling with landowners on price.

"Some of the deeds go back to Spanish land grants and are very complex to really figure out who owns the land," McAleenan said.

"So that's a multi-stage process; we try to do it in a collaborative and open, consultative manner. We're able to reach an appropriate price with most landowners, and then we do have to go through courts just to clear title in some other cases," McAleenan said.

People climb a section of border fence to look toward supporters in the U.S. as members of a caravan of Central American asylum seekers arrive to a rally on April 29, 2018 in Tijuana, Baja California Norte, Mexico. (David McNew/Getty Images)

News that some of the land-seizures in the Rio Grande Valley would be moving forward suggests the bureaucratic work is progressing more quickly than anticipated. A Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment on the land acquisitions.

The US federal government has taken aggressive measures to acquire private land in the past, using a Great Depression-era law originally designed to fast-track public works projects — which were meant to quickly generate new jobs, ProPublica and the Texas Tribune reported in December.

That law allowed it to quickly seize land to start construction, and only compensate landowners later. Many of those landowners still have not been compensated with legal action around the value of the land still in court.

Since taking office, Trump has prodded congressional lawmakers for border-wall funding.

Historically, some Republicans have opposed funding for the wall. It is also unpopular among a majority of Americans according to a Gallup poll out this week.

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