An extensive legislative history and statutory and regulatory framework define the contours of the government’s border wall project. The specific mandate to construct miles of border wall along portions of the United States/Mexico border, including along significant lengths of the Texas/Mexico border, first became law through the Secure Fence Act of 2006. However, the 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, passed in December 2007, significantly modified the requirements and conditions for border wall construction.
The course of the border wall project has also been defined by executive action. Pursuant to the authority granted to him by the REAL ID Act of 2005, Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff waived 36 laws that would otherwise have limited the government’s discretion in building the wall and would have required consideration of the impacts of the border wall on the environment and Native American communities.
The border wall project has also generated significant litigation that will determine the fate of the border wall project. The United States has sued hundreds of private property owners to obtain title to their land to allow for construction of segments of the wall on that land. Meanwhile, private property owners, environmental organizations, municipalities and indigenous communities have filed their own lawsuits challenging the actions taken by the government in relation to border wall construction.