From Bundy To Border Fences: Right-Wing Hypocrisy Over Eminent Domain

Mere weeks after right-wing media loudly defended racist Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy with erroneous allegations of a “federal land grab” of his property, the same conservative outlets are now advocating for a border fence that would require an immense seizure of private lands.

In the first half of 2014, thousands of children fled across the U.S.-Mexico border to escape rising violence plaguing their home countries in Central America. Anti-immigrant figures in the right-wing media have responded by stoking nativist insecurities, erroneously suggesting the children pose public health and safety concerns and that they will be allowed to stay in the United States indefinitely.

Many of these figures have also returned to calls for a fence to be constructed on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Conservative radio host and ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham made the completion of a border fence part of her personal plan to address holes in the nation's immigration policy in a manifesto titled, “The Government Vs. The People: Rebuilding Trust In The Midst Of The Illegal Alien Tsunami”.

On Fox News July 9, America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum floated the idea of prioritizing appropriations to construct a border fence over money for humanitarian care and administrative personnel to facilitate customs hearings. On July 8, Fox guest Pat Buchanan said in an appearance on Hannity, “Why cannot the government say 'Look, let's get together, we do need a secure fence, a double- or triple-link fence, all along the border of the United States with Mexico'?”

About a week earlier, contributor Charles Krauthammer advocated for a border fence, saying, “If fences don't work, why is there one around the White House?”

Calls for a fence often lack context or details -- and in MacCallum's case, drastically misinform on the cost of such an endeavor. In particular, conservative media tend to ignore the fact that, in order to complete a border fence, the federal government will have to seize, through eminent domain, the private property of American landowners from Texas to California.

In fact, this has already happened -- during the construction of the 670 miles of border fencing that currently exists. The Huffington Post reported in 2012 that, “Since 2008, hundreds of landowners on the border have sought fair prices for property that was condemned to make way for the fence.” The project, the Post reported, “required landowners on the border to give up property that ranged from the size of a driveway to much larger farms and commercial lots.”

The right-wing push for such federal intervention in the American Southwest feels ironic, given that just weeks before the current clamoring for a border fence, the same outlets were shining a spotlight on scofflaw Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, whose cattle were being impounded after the rancher racked up millions of dollars in fines for unlawfully allowing his cattle to graze and trespass on federal land. According to Ingraham, Fox News, and others, the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) enforcement effort was tantamount to a "land grab" by the federal government.

On Fox, host Sean Hannity said, “Before the mainstream media paid any attention to Cliven Bundy and his ranch, we on this program were focusing on similar issues, issues like eminent domain, for many, many years. Now, after all, these stories serve as proof that we have a government gone wild today in America!” Fox's legal correspondent Bob Massi baselessly suggested the Bundy confrontation was the product of an attempted government takeover of his ranch to make way for solar power plants. Fox contributor Andrew Napolitano warned of a subsequent “Bundy-style land grab in Texas”.

Ingraham complained on Fox at the time that “Nothing in the U.S. Constitution really allows for the federal government to buy up millions of acres of land and use it for whatever purposes it wants, whether it's to protect a tortoise or frankly to do anything else.”