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With border wall, property rights are cast aside

August 18, 2018

When people think of Texas, they think of a larger-than-life state. It’s a landscape of open expanses and unlimited opportunity. A state defined by brash politicians and oil booms. Home to soulful country music and Friday night lights.

An integral part of that tapestry is fierce protection of property rights. Search Google or comb through newspaper archives and you can find plenty of Texas politicians invoking private property rights.

“The Right to property is one of the most basic rights of Americans, and it has empowered pioneers to create opportunity and fuel commerce since the founding of our nation,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz wrote on Facebook in 2014.

He was speaking against Bureau of Land Management action on the Red River.

And here’s an excerpt from an op-ed Gov. Greg Abbott penned for the Austin American-Statesman in 2017:

“While we rightly rail against overreach by the federal government — like the previous administration’s attempt to take away rights from Texas landowners by regulating ponds and ditches on private land — local municipalities are increasingly infringing on private property rights and driving up costs for homeowners, renters and job-creating businesses alike.”

We could go on, but you get the point. Texans care about private property rights — except, apparently, on the U.S.-Mexico border.

For whatever reason, such deep respect for private property rights seems to go out the window when it comes to plans for 25 miles of border levee barrier in Hidalgo County and another 8 miles in Starr County. This is a small piece of President Donald Trump’s border wall, which will cut right through private property about a mile north of the border.

“I think Washington politicians, including some of our Texas senators and congressmen, are accomplishing what Gen. Santa Anna couldn’t do, and that is establishing the border north of the Rio Grande River,” Becky Jones, whose family farm will be spliced by the wall, told us earlier this summer.

Jones and her brother, Frank J. Schuster, own about 700 acres near McAllen that sit next to the Rio Grande. Their father purchased the original parcel of land in 1948 with his military savings, and over time he pieced together other parcels.

The family’s farm sits next to the 2,088-acre Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge where there won’t be a wall.

Doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Like many landowners along the border in South Texas, Jones has worried about what life will be like on the south side of the wall. Will family members or employees be safe? Will they have adequate protection? Gates will be used to allow access to private property on the south side of the wall, and she has wondered if those who know the gate codes will be targets for those who want to pass through for nefarious reasons.

Similar concerns abound at the National Butterfly Center, where about 70 percent of the property would be on the south side of the wall.

It’s not that property owners near the border don’t want security. Of course, they do. But there are ways to provide security without building a wall. The “smart wall” plan from U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican who represents a different part of the Texas-Mexico border, comes to mind. That plan relies on technology, sensors and manpower to address security concerns.

The absurdity of the border wall speaks for itself.

It will cut off precious wildlife corridors. It will harm relations with Mexico, one of our most important allies and trading partners. And it will cut through private property a mile north of the U.S.-Mexico border, putting houses and farms and Americans on the south side of the wall.

This is nonsense and it represents quite the opposition of respect for property rights.

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