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Biden promised to stop seizing border wall land. His DOJ is still doing it.


“I’m … very, very disappointed in Joe Biden. I thought he was a man of his word but apparently he’s not keeping his word,” Reynaldo “Rey” Anzaldua Cavazos, a member of the family whose land was taken, told POLITICO. “He said not one more foot of wall and no land forfeitures. We took him at his word and we want him to keep his word.”

Despite Biden’s promise to quickly reverse Trump’s immigration policies, he has yet to act on many of them — from failing to increase the cap on refugees to rescinding a ban on most migrants at the southern border. But fewer issues carry as much symbolic weight as the border wall. And his actions there threaten to further complicate his pledge to offer a kinder, gentler immigration system where everyone is welcome.

“They can have all the excuses they want but it’s real dicey to look at what they’re doing right now,” said a person who consults with the White House on immigration policy who has grown frustrated. “It’s a lot of stuff Trump was doing.”

Trump completed more than 400 miles of a wall along the southern border before he left office, in large part by invoking an emergency declaration that allowed him to divert money from the Pentagon budget in 2019 and 2020 to pay for construction in four locations along the Mexican border. About 140 eminent domain cases — which allow the federal government to acquire private land for public use — remain active along the border in south Texas, according to the Texas Civil Rights Project, which represents a handful of families, including the Cavazos.

Biden said in an interview a few months before the November election that he would not only not build “another foot of wall” but he would end those eminent domain cases, too.

“End. Stop. Done. Over. Not going to do it. Withdraw the lawsuits. We’re out. We’re not going to confiscate the land,” Biden told NPR in August.

But Biden’s administration has not withdrawn from Trump court cases to seize land for the wall. It has even conceded that the wall could continue to be built or modified.

The Department of Justice wrote last month in another eminent domain case that Biden’s proclamation “left open the possibility that some aspects of the project may resume.”

“At this time,” the department added, “the Secretary of Homeland Security has not shed light on the future of the border wall or the road project.”

The White House referred questions to the Department of Justice, which explained it sought to delay cases instead of ending them since Biden’s review was not complete.

“DOJ sought continuances in pending cases, including in this case, in which the government had previously filed motions for possession of land on the southwest border in light of President Biden’s proclamation terminating the national emergency at the southern border of the United States and directing ‘a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall,’” a DOJ official said.

After Biden was sworn into office, activists along the border sent a letter to him and his team, urging them to immediately dismiss all eminent domain cases. Some of the cases are still in the early stages, where property was being reviewed. Other cases pertain to possible compensation for property that has already been seized.

A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said CBP and the Army Corps of Engineers “have suspended surveys, negotiations with landowners, and similar real estate acquisition activities, in accordance with the president’s proclamation.” But the spokesperson referred questions about litigation to DOJ.

The Cavazos, whose extended family arrived in the area more than 200 years ago, have been fighting the federal…



Read More: Biden promised to stop seizing border wall land. His DOJ is still doing it.

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