State leaders introduce bill to prevent border wall, land commissioner proposes trade

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SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) — A battle is brewing in New Mexico over Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexican border. Lawmakers introduced a bill to stop the feds from building on state land.

Democrat-backed House Bill 292 would prohibit the sale or transfer of public lands to build a border wall. In response, New Mexico’s land commissioner sent a letter to President Trump, proposing a trade.

“I would like to trade the trust lands we have along the border for land in either Otero, Chavez and Lincoln Counties,” said New Mexico’s State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn.

Dunn is talking about 22 of nearly 160 miles along the Mexico border. It’s trust land that makes money for beneficiaries like New Mexico Public Schools and the University of New Mexico.

“What we’re trying to do is create income from those lands,” Dunn said.

Yet, Dunn doesn’t believe those beneficiaries are set to make much from the border land, especially with a wall there.

His solution is to hand over the land the Feds need for a wall, in exchange for new trust land in places like Otero and Lincoln County.

“We thought, rather than be in the argument between those against the wall and those for the wall, that we just assume get our lands out of that area,” said Dunn.

Dunn asks President Trump for help with the trade in a letter he sent Feb. 1.

“With that letter, he came right into the debate. He inserted himself and his office which are supposed to be safeguarding our lands,” said Democratic Rep. Javier Martinez.

Martinez introduced HB 292, which aims to stop the selling or transfer of any state land for the use of building a wall.

“What they’re trying to do is control the Land Office and say we can’t issue a right-of-way for a wall to be built there or sell lands to build a wall there,” said Dunn.

Yet, Martinez says he doesn’t believe the wall is in the public’s best interest, no matter what the state gets in return.

“I don’t believe we should be compromising or trading our values and ideals as New Mexicans,” he said.

Martinez and Dunn both say the federal government cannot come in and take state land — there must be some sort of reimbursement. Even so, Martinez doesn’t want any part of it and says the battle will go to the courts, if need be.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham also introduced a bill pertaining to the border wall. It’s called the “Build Bridges Not Walls Act.” It would prevent the implementation of Trump’s executive order to build a wall.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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