Texas to reimburse landowners for damages caused by border property crime

Department of Public Safety Special Operations agents escort a group of migrants through private property as part of Operation Lone Star after apprehebnding them in Kinney County near Brackettville on Nov. 9, 2021. (Verónica G. Cárdenas For Propublica/The Texas Tribune, Verónica G. Cárdenas For Propublica/The Texas Tribune)

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Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday opened a program that will reimburse landowners along the U.S.-Mexico border for damage to their land and property caused by migrants, smugglers and drug traffickers.

Landowners have 90 days after an incident to file a claim, which requires a written police report documenting the damage. The state will compensate up to $75,000 for damage to things like a barn or a fence, Paxton’s office said in a written statement that blamed President Joe Biden’s administration for the problem.

“This program will provide needed relief to Texans whose property is damaged by foreign aliens waved into the country by the federal government,” Paxton said in the statement. “I am glad to help the farmers and ranchers on our borderlands who bear the costs of Biden’s destructive policies.”

Property damage caused by migrants crossing through private property — such as cutting through fences as they make their way north — has been a constant problem for border-area landowners for decades. Private property is sometimes damaged when human smugglers try to evade authorities and crash their vehicles into fences or structures.

Landowners can apply online and should expect correspondence via email, according to the attorney general’s office.

The Legislature last year approved a law, Senate Bill 1133, to create the program, which appropriated $18 million in state money for the fund for this year and next year.

Land damage before Sept. 1, when SB 1133 went into effect, is not eligible for the program. Landowners have 90 days to file claims for any damage to their land between Sept. 1 and May 6.

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