Lawmakers want unused border wall money to compensate farmers for theft, damages left by migrants

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SAFE Act calls for $75 million transfer to FEMA so farmers, ranchers can apply for compensation and enhance security of land near border with Mexico

Adan Madrid and his father, Adan Madrid, Sr., work on their ranch that abuts the Rio Grande river which marks the border between Mexico and the United States on January 16, 2019 in Candelaria, Texas.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A West Texas congressman has filed legislation to reimburse border landowners up to $75 million for damages to their property resulting from illegal immigration. The money would come from border wall construction the Biden administration hasn’t used and allow landowners to use the money to enhance physical security on their land, including building fences.

The Securing American Families from Exploitation at the Border (SAFE) Act would transfer $75 million in unused border construction funds to the Federal Emergency Management Administration to establish a Border Landowner Security Grant Program, said U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas.

“Our farmers, ranchers and border communities are consistently fronting the bill for the crisis at our southern border. I hear from folks every day that share with me that the cost of the immigration crisis is growing,” Gonzales said. “This legislation will help to ensure that families are no longer having to pay for property repairs out of their own pockets.” 

Gonzales from Texas’ 23rd Congressional District and fellow Republican Stephanie Bice from Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District filed the bill.

The grants would allow landowners in “high-risk” areas of the U.S.-Mexico border to strengthen their physical security against property damage, theft or other losses. They would also compensate landowners for such losses.

“Since the Biden administration has chosen to halt construction of the wall and refuses to effectively address the border crisis, Congress must find other ways to help people protect their property and this legislation will assist. Illegal border crossings continue to be a major issue in the states that border Mexico,” Bice said. “This legislation provides a pathway to help landowners who are at risk or who have already been impacted.”

U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, (middle) talks to farmers in Tornillo, Texas, concerned about undocumented immigrants passing through their property. (photo by Julian Resendiz/Border Report)

Gonzales earlier this year met with farmers in Tornillo, Texas, who shared stories of migrants passing through or hiding on their property and sharing shocking stories of violence just across the Rio Grande.

The bill was co-authored by several Texas and Oklahoma Republicans and is supported by farm and cattle bureaus.

“Texas Farm Bureau members continue suffering devastating losses due to the surge in illegal immigration,” said Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening. “Many hardworking farm and ranch families have shared examples of property damage, vandalization, stolen equipment, security concerns and more.”

The farmers say their concerns about security stemming from illegal immigration – which has skyrocketed during the Biden administration – have gone unaddressed.

“Farm Bureau members in our neighboring southern border states have repeatedly asked for help with the serious issues related to trespassing, theft and damage they face when illegal migrants cross their property,” Oklahoma Farm Bureau President Rodd Moesel said.

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The mission of BorderReport.com is to provide real-time delivery of the untold local stories about people living, working and migrating along the U.S. border with Mexico. The information is gathered by experienced and trusted Nexstar Media Group journalists hired specifically to cover the border.