President Joe Biden on day one of his presidency put an end to construction of former President Donald Trump’s border wall. But three months later, Biden’s government is still seizing private land for wall construction, even though no wall is being built.
This week, the federal government seized six acres of land from a family in Hidalgo County, Texas, after a federal judge confirmed the government’s right to take the land in an eminent domain case that began when Trump was president. The land belonged to Baudilia Cavazos and her family, who have been fighting in court since 2018 to stop the government from taking it.
“We are utterly devastated,” Baudilia Cavazos told Reason Magazine after the judge’s decision. “We thought President Joe Biden would protect us. Now we’ve lost our land. We don’t even know what comes next.”
President Trump constructed more than 400 miles of border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, at times using eminent domain authority to seize private land for wall construction. Eminent domain is a power that allows the government to acquire private property for public use.
President Trump’s administration wanted to use eminent domain to seize approximately seven acres of Cavazos land, constructing the wall in the middle of it and dividing it between the U.S. and Mexico sides. The family’s home would have been on the U.S. side of the border, but several rental properties they own would have been inaccessible on the Mexican side, which the family says would result in a major loss of income.
Though Biden paused construction of the wall pending a federal review of the legality of its funding, his administration never withdrew the case against the Cavazos family. Their case was one of nearly 140 eminent domain cases that remain active along the southern border, Politico reported.
On the campaign trail, Biden promised to end these eminent domain cases, telling NPR in August 2020, “End. Stop. Done. Over. Not going to do it. Withdraw the lawsuits. We’re out. We’re not going to confiscate the land.”
But so far, his administration hasn’t kept its promise. The Department of Justice told Politico that it is seeking to delay the pending eminent domain cases until Biden’s review of the wall project is completed.
The families that own the land, and progressive activists who believed Biden would enact a full reversal of Trump’s immigration and border policies, feel betrayed.
“Yesterday, we witnessed a betrayal of the Biden Administration’s commitment to end construction of the border wall,” Ricky Garza, an attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, said in a statement. “In federal court, the President’s pause on border wall construction is meaningless without immediate action from the DOJ to dismiss these cases.”