A shaky foundation for a border wall

John Fund of National Review Online questions one of President Trump’s recent pronouncements about his proposed border wall.

Donald Trump spent much of his 2016 campaign railing against President Obama’s misuse of executive power, especially Obama’s decision to extend legal protection to underage children who were brought to the U.S. by their foreign parents.

But now President Trump, frustrated by Congress’s failure to deliver $5 billion in funding for the border wall, is proposing to bend the Constitution to get what he wants. Trump told reporters that he may be willing to declare a state of national emergency to build the wall “very quickly” without congressional backing, and that he may even use “the military version of eminent domain” to seize the property such a structure might need. “I can do it if I want,” he declared. …

… Trump would be on shakier ground — even with his conservative base — if he pursued his concept of a “military version of eminent domain.” Legal analysts don’t know if such a concept is firmly rooted in the law even during peacetime. Seizing land along the border would also create many opportunities for abuse. The federal government owns less than one-third of the land adjoining Mexico. The rest belongs to local governments, Native American tribes, and private-property owners.

Trump’s cavalier attitudes toward private property are nothing new. As a crony capitalist, Trump backed the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in 2005 in Kelo v. New London, which allowed public authorities to seize private land and turn it over to private interests for “economic development.”

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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