Trump is Wrong to Abuse Government Power and Eminent Domain for His Wall

FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2016 photo, a U.S. Border Patrol agent drives near the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Santa Teresa, N.M. Can Donald Trump really make good on his promise to build a wall along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexican border to prevent illegal migration? What’s more, can he make Mexico pay for it? Sure, he can build it, but it’s not nearly as simple as he says. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

Donald Trump has long been a fan of eminent domain — as an Atlantic City casino owner (before his casino failed), he attempted to use state power to force an elderly widow out of her home. Today, as president of the United States, he took his support for eminent domain one step further.


During today’s Rose Garden press conference regarding a border wall, Trump admitted he was open to the idea of circumventing Congress by declaring a national emergency. He also brought up “the military version of eminent domain” but did not clarify what he meant, leaving people unsure if he was suggesting building the wall by using the United States military to invade southern states in order to seize private property from citizens.

After a reporter asked Trump if he had “considered using emergency powers to grant [himself] authorities to build this wall without congressional authority,” Trump answered “Yes, I have. And I can do it if I want.”

He continued, “We can call a national emergency because of the security of our country. Absolutely, no, we can do it. I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it. But we can call a national emergency and build it very quickly.”

First, some thoughts on the question itself. As political columnist Ana Marie Cox pointed out, reporters often goad Trump into making grandiose assertions, even if he appears uninformed about a topic. Surely, the reporter could have asked a more appropriate or useful question. And that does not excuse Trump, who is not only the president but is also 72 years old and therefore should know enough to reject the premise of such questions.


And, regardless the usefulness of the question, Trump’s willingness to declare a national emergency in order to circumvent Congress is a disturbing overreach of executive power.

During the same press conference, Trump also mentioned using “the military version of eminent domain” to take privately owned land along the border.

It’s not entirely clear what Trump meant by “the military version of eminent domain.” Per Reason, “federal law does allow for military department secretaries to ‘acquire any interest in land’ if ‘the acquisition is needed in the interest of national defense.’ But defining building a wall on the southern border as an issue of national defense is a stretch.”

Let’s hope that is what he meant and that the Republican president did not just broach the possibility of the government using the military to invade southern states to seize private property.

Nonetheless, everything about Trump’s support of eminent domain and using the military is the opposite of the conservative principles I hold dear, such as limited government, individual liberty, and private property.


The government does not create certain natural rights; the primary purpose of government is to protect these rights. The right of private property is a fundamental right of a free society because it enables people to be truly free and independent of their government.

Sixty-seven percent of the land along the United States border with Mexico is private or state-owned. The government should not abuse its power to take its’ citizens homes, businesses, or land. The use and abuse of government power is a slippery slope; the more power the government obtains, the more it tries to grab. The only way to stop this from happening is to be vigilant and prevent creeping use and abuse of power wherever we can.

Republican Representative Justin Amash of Michigan.

Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, once stated, “It’s a wall, but it’s a technological wall; it’s a digital wall. … There are some that hear this is going to be 1,200 miles from [Texas towns] Brownsville to El Paso, 30-foot high and, listen, I know you can’t do that.”*

It is not necessary or possible to build a wall along the entire border, especially when the majority of illegal immigration is due to visa overstays. There are other ways to discourage illegal immigration and protect our border. We should not unnecessarily abuse government power in order to stomp on the rights of individuals.


*This sentence has been edited to include Perry’s full quote.

Read more of my thoughts on the wall here: The GOP Should Give Up On The Wall, Not On Outreach And Hispanic Voters.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.



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