Lawyer for border landowners fears they may lose homes to wall

An attorney representing a group of landowners suing over the President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE's national emergency declaration said Thursday that some could lose their homes or the ability to access their property if a wall goes up on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“They basically live in houses that back up to the river and Mexico is across the river, so building the wall may in fact end up having to have their houses torn down, potentially,” Public Citizen attorney Michael Kirkpatrick told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on Thursday.

Kirkpatrick said even if homes aren’t demolished, some landowners could still lose access to their land.

“They will have a wall within just feet of their back door and their back windows and much of their land will be stuck on the south side of the wall while they're living on the north side of the wall so they lose access to their land,” he said.

Public Citizen filed the first lawsuit looking to block Trump’s emergency declaration, which he is using to get government funds for his proposed border wall. The liberal advocacy group has sued on behalf of the Frontera Audubon Society and three landowners in South Texas who were told by the government that it would look to build on their properties if appropriations become available.

President Trump announced last Friday that he would declare a national emergency to construct the wall after Congress only allocated $1.375 billion for physical barriers along the border in a border funding deal. That figure is below the $5.7 billion that the president had requested. The move has since sparked a slew of legal challenges.

Kirkpatrick said the watchdog group is making several arguments against the legality of Trump’s national emergency declaration.

“There is simply no crisis at the border of criminals, drug traffickers and gang members coming across as described by the president in his statement, so there’s a real fact issue about that of whether even there is an emergency,” Kirkpatrick said, referring to Trump's justifications for the emergency. 

The attorney also said, by using an emergency declaration to bypass Congress, Trump’s move is a “plain violation” of the separation of powers.

“What you’ve done then is you’ve moved away from your separate of powers, our checks and balances and you’re giving basically unfettered discretion to the president to spend money any way he chooses if Congress won’t appropriate the money, he can declare a national emergency and do it anyway,” Kirkpatrick said.

Public Citizen isn’t the only one taking issue with Trump’s move to build his long-promised border wall. Sixteen states, including New York and California, have also filed lawsuits against the Trump administration over the emergency declaration.

Senate and House Democrats, meanwhile, have announced plans to file resolutions to block Trump’s declaration.

—Tess Bonn