Ray Hagar: President Trump’s border wall poses challenges

Besides getting funding from Congress, President Donald Trump also faces another problem in getting his wall built on the U.S. side of our border with Mexico, a prominent lawyer says.

That issue is eminent domain, which is the power of the government to seize private property from citizens — even if they don’t want to sell — as long as the government pays a “fair” price.

Part of the $4 billion Trump wants for the Wall in the next two years is expected to be set aside to hire 20 lawyers to prosecute these eminent domain cases for the Trump administration, said Michael Chapman of the Fennemore Craig law firm — formerly known locally as Jones Vargas.

Chapman has represented governments and private property owners in complex, high liability eminent domain (condemnation) cases for more than 33 years, his biography states on the Fennemore Craig website states.

“He represents private property owners and condemning agencies in freeway projects, redevelopment projects and public utilities.”

When it comes to the proposed border wall, time may not be on Trump’s side. When President George W. Bush tried to improve the fence along the border in 2006 with the Border Security Act, it took federal lawyers seven years to get a single acre of land from a woman who refused to sell.

There is the potential that eminent domain issues could outlast an eight-year Trump presidency, although the government could get tough and really shorten the process, Chapman said recently on “Nevada Newsmakers.”

“The federal government also has the authority to do a quick take, which means as soon as they file in court, the title automatically transfers,” Chapman said. “And they can begin construction right away.”

The wall has to be built on U.S. soil and that can cause a dilemma for some U.S. farmers and ranchers, Chapman said.

“Some of the land that people own in the United States is actually going to be isolated on the south side of the wall because where it (Wall) has to be constructed is not exactly on the border,” he said.

“And if you are on the Rio Grande, that border keeps shifting anyway with the flow of the water over the centuries,” Chapman said.

“So for some of these people in the past, they have actually had to give them a gate and a key to go to their land on the other side of the wall or the fence, to work on it. So, how secure it is actually? I don’t know.”

Ray Hagar is a journalist for “Nevada Newsmakers.” More information on the public affairs broadcast program, podcast and website is available nevadanewsmakers.com