The New Mexico Land Commissioner is blocking the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) from accessing a one mile section of border wall near the Santa Teresa port of entry, claiming that the section was erected on a state land trust without permission.
Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, a registered Libertarian, began an investigation last month into whether or not the federal government had acquired the necessary right of way, KVIA reported.
In general, the federal government is reserved a 60-foot-wide strip of land along the border, in accord with a proclamation issued by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907. The intent of that proclamation was to allow for enforcement against the illegal smuggling of goods into the United States, but its reservation has also been used to allow the construction of border security fencing or walls.
But, according to KVIA, the section of land on which this section of wall is constructed was reserved to New Mexico in 1898, under the Ferguson Act. That act stipulated that land reserved in the public trust was to be used exclusively for public schools. Because the reservation of the land predates the Roosevelt proclamation, Dunn claims, CBP needs to pay to access its wall.
Dunn's investigation concluded that CBP had not payed up for right-of-way, a bill that comes out to $19,200. An additional section of wall was also found to be in violation, as CBP had constructed electric lights, road, and a structure outside of the proclamation area and on trust land — that adds an additional $9,600 to what Dunn says CBP owes the state of New Mexico.
"Border security is important, but so are our kids and they have a right to collect the money earned from the lands they own. Mr. Trump, tear down this wall or pay New Mexico school kids what they're owed," Dunn said.
CBP for its part did not appear to be contesting Dunn's claims, saying that it wanted to work with New Mexico to rectify the issue.
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection is diligently evaluating the concerns outlined by the New Mexico Land Commissioner's Office and will contact them directly to address their concerns. CBP values its relationship with the New Mexico state trust lands. An important part of CBP's strategy to successfully secure the nation's borders includes developing and leveraging partnerships and dialogue with state and local stakeholders to ensure that the unique operational needs of each region are effectively met," CBP said in a statement released to KVIA.
Still, Dunn intends to block CBP access to its wall until the matter is rectified.