One of the most common arguments from proponents of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall is that people are able to build walls on their own property.
The argument has little to do with the president’s project, as that involves the use of public lands against the wishes of millions of Americans, and the diversion of federal funds that Congress has allocated for other uses — essentially, an after the- fact line-item veto that the Supreme Court repeatedly has declared unconstitutional, most recently in 1998. It is true, however, that private property owners have a right to build walls on their own property, and many Americans choose to do so in the name of privacy and security.
That right extends to all parts of the country, including the border.
A federal judge was right, therefore, to rule earlier this month that property owners have a right to build their own version of a border wall south of Mission.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane rejected arguments from both the National Butterfly Center and the International Boundary and Water Commission that sought to halt three miles of privately funded obstructions intended to stop or divert the flow of trespassers, including illegal border crossers.
Much of the money was raised through a public funding campaign.
The National Butterfly Center sued to stop the construction, invoking state law that restrict property owners’ actions if they would adversely affect their neighbors — in this case the center. NBC attorneys argued that erosion caused by the structures and the diversion of rainwater runoffs could damage habitat for many insects and animals that live there. The IBWC lawsuit claimed the wall violates international treaty by essentially moving the border.
It must be noted, however, that the government itself is disregarding the IBWC’s argument with its plans to build its own wall along the Rio Grande.
Crane said assertions of damage to neighboring property were “highly speculative.”
It’s also worth noting that many law enforcement agencies oppose the use of these kinds of structures, even at home. They block the vision of patrolling officers and can actually provide cover for anyone on the other side or in the shadows.
Fortunately, incursions into private property remain relatively rare, and most people don’t have to deal with intruders, whether they have surrounded themselves with wall, fencing or nothing at all. So if a more solid structure makes them feel safer, their peace of mind might be worth the possibly antithetical compromise in actual safety.
Perhaps that’s the notion driving the desire for a border wall among Trump and others. The president shouldn’t have carte blanche to confiscate private property and utilize public funds however he sees fit; the ownership of private property, however, carries with it certain rights that include relative freedom regarding its use.
We have always opposed the idea of a border wall as a waste of taxpayers’ money; it hasn’t worked where it’s been built and it doesn’t address the real problem with immigration — bad legislation and bureaucratic inefficiency. That opposition, however, doesn’t give us, or anyone else, the right to tell others what they can do with their own property.