Border Patrol Using Eminent Domain Laws To Seize Land

August 27, 2013

TUCSON, Ariz. — The U.S. Border Patrol has decided it wants to use a slice of Tony Sedgwick’s land. Not much, a quarter of an acre. He owns 700 acres. But in court papers filed by federal prosecutors, the agency says it needs the land to build a border security tower.

“This quarter of an acre is not any quarter of an acre. They have of course cherry picked the highest and most visible place," Sedgwick said.

So the U.S. Attorney’s Office is using eminent domain laws requiring Sedgwick to let the Border Patrol use the land.

The court filing signed by U.S. Attorney John Leonardo read, "The public purpose for which said property is taken is to construct, install, operate, and maintain a border security tower, along with all necessary and related structures and roads, designed to help secure the United States border within the state of Arizona." 

The government paid him $6,603. Sedgwick says he wants $29,000. But he’s not optimistic he’s going to get it.

In the early 1990s, Sedgwick leased the Border Patrol parts of his property for about $350 a year. In the mid-2000s, the price had gone up to $500 a year but the agency stopped paying it. Then, Sedgwick says, he received the notice of condemnation this summer. The Border Patrol wants his quarter of an acre and also wants a 2.5 acre easement so government vehicles can access the hill.

Using eminent domain, the Border Patrol is also seizing land belonging to Sedgwick’s neighbors. Just how many neighbors, the agency has not said. The Border Patrol began taking contractor bids this year to build a network of towers along the Nogales border in the general area where Sedgwick's property sits.

Border Patrol officials declined to be interviewed for this story.