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What If the Border Wall Happens to You?
Posted By Alison Battiste, Senior Attorney || May 12, 2017
Many people in the Rio Grande Valley are wondering what they will do in the event the fateful condemnation letter, announcing the government's acquisition of their property, arrives in the mail. Should they fight the government to keep their property, should they fight the offered compensation, or should they just take the award and politely relinquish their property? After all, many people want the wall.
Fighting to keep the property will likely bring more pain than satisfaction. The U.S. Constitution gives the federal government eminent domain power to take property from citizens for public use, and the wall will be for public use. The process in which the government asserts this power, by paying the property owner and taking the land, is called condemnation. Property owners could end up spending a lot of money on legal fees and court costs, and the government still ends up taking the land because the Constitution permits it.
During condemnation proceedings, the property owner can negotiate the value of the land and argue that the taking of a portion of their land will cause damage to their remaining property. There could also be issues with access to the property during construction of the project that must be compensated.
The process can be disheartening and also humbling. For this, it is a good idea to consult a skilled condemnation attorney so as to be prepared when weaving through all of the special rules and deadlines that apply to the condemnation process.
Some reports say that, during the 2006 border condemnation process, those who went with representation fared much better than those who went without – with discrepancies as low as $1,000 and as high as seven figures.
No matter your political views, or how much you want the border wall, or any other public use project that requires the government to take your property, you should demand what you are rightfully owed. While the Constitution gives the government eminent domain power, it also requires just compensation.