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Can Trump's emergency border wall encroach on protected land?

Land that was protected in the latest spending bill is now at risk after President Trump's declaration.

MCALLEN, Texas — The national emergency declaration by President Donald Trump intends to divert funding for a wall on the southern border. However, provisions in the spending bill he signed into law that same day exempts certain areas in the Texas Rio Grande Valley where money can’t be used for a wall.

So, does one trump over the other?

The bi-partisan bill signed into law by the president Friday keeps the government open until September. The bill allocates $1.4 billion for 55 miles of wall in the area – short of the $5.8 billion he had asked for.

The bill also prevents any of that funding to be used towards a wall on protected land, including a historical chapel, a butterfly center, and a state park in Mission, Texas.

Credit: Oscar Margain
Border Patrol begins clearing brush to prepare for border wall construction on levee road in Mission, Texas.

“I think a lot of people are focusing on those specific areas that were exempted in the bill that now he might be able to use the funding from the national emergency to build in those locations that were exempted,” said South Texas College Assistant Professor Mark Murray.

Murray believes the president is using the emergency powers to go around Congress.

It prompted rallies across the country.

Activists gathered in McAllen and denounced the president’s unilateral move to strip $6.6 billion – mainly from military programs – to make up for the money Congress didn’t give him to build a wall.

Credit: Oscar Margain
Protesters rally against President Trump's national emergency declaration at Archer Park in McAllen, Texas

“It will shrink the size of Texas,” said retired political science professor Dr. Gary Mounce.

The national emergency declaration and the border wall projects have motivated him to protest.

“I hope the courts find him in violation of the Constitution but ‘no sabemos’, we don’t know,” said Mounce.  

Even if the president’s order is stopped by the courts, it doesn’t mean the mentioned areas are ‘off the hook’.

“Next year’s budget, the president will ask – if he thinks it’s necessary – to give funding for those specific areas that were not allowed to be built in this current bill,” noted Murray.

U.S. Border Patrol told the KENS 5 Border Team that levee wall projects in the Rio Grande Valley will move forward, working around said protected areas until further instructions from Washington.

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