(CBS) – Texas Rep. Will Hurd, the sole Republican representing a congressional district along the southern border, said more than 1,000 farmers in his state are at risk of having their land seized by the federal government to facilitate the construction of President Trump’s long-promised wall.
“In the great state of Texas, we care about a little thing called private property, and there’s going to be over 1,000 ranchers and farmers potentially impacted if the government comes in and takes their land,” Hurd said on “Face the Nation” Sunday.
To build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Trump administration will likely attempt to seize private property along the frontier using the power of eminent domain, which allows the government to trigger a process to buy and ultimately acquire private land for public use.
“What we’re doing with eminent domain is, in many cases, we’ll make a deal up front. We’ve already done that. The secretary has done a lot of that,” the president told reporters in January, offering no specifics to support the claim. “And if we can’t make a deal, we take the land and we pay them through a court process. Which goes actually fairly quickly. And we’re generous. But we take the land. Otherwise you could never build anything. If you didn’t use eminent domain, you wouldn’t have one highway in this country. You have to use eminent domain.”
But Hurd said the strategy will surely be resisted by some landowners and force the government into a prolonged legal battle.
“[Government officials] say, ‘Hey, we need this land. Here’s what we’re going to give you.’ And they get to automatically take it. And then the rancher or the landowner has to go in and fight in court,” he added.
Hurd, who has been vocal about his opposition to the construction of a continuous border wall, said an effective plan to bolster border security involves investing in technology, increasing the number of border officials and building barriers along some parts of the frontier. An national emergency proclamation, he added, is not a “tool that the president needs in order to solve this problem.”
“Our government wasn’t designed to operate by national emergency. Unfortunately, a Congress that existed before I was born usurped some of their power, gave some of their power away to the executive branch,” he said, referring to the National Emergencies Act of 1976. “Our government was designed for the most ultimate power, the power of the purse, to reside within Congress. And we shouldn’t have an executive — I don’t care if it’s Republican or Democrat — that tries to get around Congress with this national emergency declaration.”
After lawmakers approved spending legislation with only $1.375 billion in fundingfor 55 miles of physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, the president bypassed Congress and declared a national emergency to access billions of dollars in funds to build a border wall.
“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border,” Mr. Trump said during a televised address Friday. “And we’re going to do it one way or the other.”
The extraordinary move, which allows the White House to use $3.6 billion in military construction funds for the construction of a border wall, is expected to face a flurry of legal and legislative challenges. Through a separate executive order signed Friday, the president will also be able to divert $2.5 billion from counternarcotics initiatives and $601 million from a Treasury Department forfeiture fund.
The president’s decision to act unilaterally without legislative consent provoked widespread criticism from Democrats, who quickly introduced legislation to disapprove the national emergency proclamation, and even from some moderate Republicans, including Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who accused Mr. Trump of “usurping congressional authority.” Despite voicing concerns about the proclamation before Mr. Trump issued it, most rank-and-file Republicans, including Senate and House leadership, have expressed their support for the White House since Friday’s announcement.
Echoing remarks from several of his congressional colleagues, Hurd said the White House’s move sets a “dangerous precedent.” He added he would be willing to support bipartisan legislation to review — and possibly limit — the president’s emergency powers and prevent him from diverting funds earmarked for the military.
“I’m always open to making sure that Congress takes back some of this power as a coequal branch of government. And I’m sure there will be a lot of conversations,” he said. “We’re almost in uncharted territory now because I think that based on my research and this is one of the first times that there has been a disagreement between the executive branch and Congress on what is indeed a national emergency.”