ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A U.S. Senate candidate who serves as New
Mexico's top land manager posted signs Tuesday along the U.S.-Mexico
border aimed at blocking border patrol operations on a one-mile stretch
of state trust land over concerns that the federal government is not
compensating the state for using the land.
Aubrey Dunn told The Associated Press that if his office can't reach an
agreement over an easement with the federal government, he will install a
fence to block access to the property.
Dunn, elected in 2014 as a
Republican, announced earlier this year he was running for the U.S.
Senate after becoming a Libertarian. He previously considered running
for governor and the U.S. House.
first outlined his concerns in a letter sent last month to federal
officials. He said it's an issue of state sovereignty and that revenue
earned from development or use of trust land helps fund public education
in the state.
"I'm shutting down the federal government just as I
would shut down any business trespassing on state trust lands," Dunn
said. "Border security is important, but so are our kids and they have a
right to collect the money earned from the lands they own,"
Customs and Border Protection said it is evaluating Dunn's concerns. The
agency said in a statement Tuesday that part of the strategy for
securing the border includes developing and leveraging partnerships with
state and local stakeholders.
There were no reports that
operations had been interrupted Tuesday after Dunn put up the signage
and cordoned off the road with tape, the agency said.
about installing more fencing and barriers along the border heated up
recently when a federal judge sided with the Trump administration over a
challenge to waivers that had been issued to clear the way for
construction in parts of California and New Mexico.
timeline for when work might begin to replace barriers along a 20-mile
stretch near Santa Teresa, New Mexico. The State Land Office began
researching the effects construction could have after some state
Democrat lawmakers proposed legislation aimed at blocking construction
on state trust land.
The State Land Office oversees millions of acres, including a patchwork along the state's southern border with Mexico.
staff determined that one parcel between the Santa Teresa port of entry
and El Paso, Texas, had been initially conveyed to what was then the
territory of New Mexico under the 1898 Ferguson Act. New Mexico
officials contend the parcel was never part of the buffer zone that was
established by a 1907 presidential proclamation to ensure federal
authorities could patrol along the southern border.
Dunn said a
survey by the Bureau of Land Management and other records show the state
owns the entire parcel and that the federal government never received
permission from the state to build the border barrier that has existed
there for years, or to use the roads in the area.
There also are
questions about whether a right of way is needed for another area where
the federal government has installed lights and is maintaining a road
along the border.
Easement and rights of way fees would cost
roughly $30,000 for the parcels in question, according to preliminary
estimates by the State Land Office.
"This trespass issue is not a new issue," Dunn said. "There's been quite a bit of federal encroachment."