Property Musings at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Maryland Journal of International Law, Vol. 33, p. 162 (2018)

U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2018-26

22 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2018 Last revised: 24 Aug 2018

See all articles by Gerald S. Dickinson

Gerald S. Dickinson

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law

Date Written: August 20, 2018


President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Order calling for “a physical wall on the southern border” of the United States in January, 2017. In his address before Congress, the President stated, “[W]e will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border.” The political response to the Executive Order has been swift. Representative Lamar Smith of Texas views the Executive Order as a testament to the President “honoring his commitment” to immigration enforcement. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin favorably compares the border mandates in Israel and Egypt as successful examples of how to mitigate illegal immigration. Opponents focus on the cost and financing of the wall. Some estimate that Congress needs to appropriate $20 billion to cover the costs for construction. Representative Will Hurd of Texas stated that a physical wall is “the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border.” The California state legislature is seeking to halt state contracts for builders seeking to profit from the wall. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California threatened to shut down the government if demands for funding the project continued from the Trump Administration. Then-Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) John Kelly noted that the agency could not prepare an all-inclusive cost estimate related to longer-term border security initiatives until an analysis was conducted and other variables, such as land acquisition, were addressed, and that a wall, in and of itself, would not be enough. The controversy over the wall goes beyond the U.S. borders. Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto responded that “Mexico will not pay for any wall.” While the physical construction of the wall will, inevitably, come down to whether Congress appropriates sufficient funds for the project, the biggest obstacles for the wall may not necessarily be the money, but acquiring the land to build the wall.

Keywords: Cooperative Federalism, Border Wall, Eminent Domain, Federal Takings, Trump Administration

Suggested Citation

Dickinson, Gerald S., Property Musings at the U.S.-Mexico Border (August 20, 2018). Maryland Journal of International Law, Vol. 33, p. 162 (2018), U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2018-26, Available at SSRN:

Gerald S. Dickinson (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412 328 3198 (Phone)


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