Nathan Gabriel has opened his home to thousands of migrant children and families fleeing the country’s open borders, many of whom took shelter in his community of El Paso, Texas.
But now, the former vice president is opening up his home to a few families who claim the land on which his family has lived for generations is part of the proposed border wall.
The home and land were seized in 2013 by then-President Barack Obama’s Department of Homeland Security, which donated the land for a wall with electronic sensors and some fencing near the border, on land that also serves as playground for Gabriel’s children.
The place where President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden now live was seized and donated to border wall as part of a deal made by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the feds — keeping with the “blue wall” idea that Democrats have long championed as a way to reduce drug smuggling and crime along the border, through stricter immigration enforcement.
The party’s former vice president returned home this weekend to help a coalition led by the left-leaning Fund for the Southwest make a case for the reparations of 13acres of land — roughly half the size of a football field — it has accepted from the US government under a deal by Abbott and President Donald Trump.
In an email, Joseph Soria, a regional administrator with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, confirmed that the agency “has written the land release papers granting the land to the Southwest Coalition as reparations for the seizure and loss of the Gabriel family’s property.”
The land is on Camp Golding, a property owned by the National Park Service.
“It will be returned to the Gabriel family in a year’s time,” Soria said.
Gabriel, however, has spoken out against the wall, saying it was an “illegal project,” during a panel discussion.
“I don’t care who you are, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, no American should want a wall on their land,” Gabriel said during a June panel discussion at the University of Texas at El Paso with school faculty.
Asked about taking land for the wall, Gabriel responded, “We know our area of the border here on Camp Golding better than anybody, we have memories of our children playing there.”
Asked about taking land from Gabriels, a spokeswoman with the US Department of Homeland Security told CNN that the “US Department of Homeland Security has broken ground at the property where the temporary operations center is located.”
“A land grant in May 2017 provided the land for the temporary operations center. The land release was performed in accordance with federal law and, upon delivery of the land, approved by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The Secretary understands the importance of this matter to the Gabriel family and their community and looks forward to seeing the return of the Gabriel’s land,” spokeswoman Katie Waldman said.
Earlier this year, the National Park Service entered into a settlement with the government to acquire the land for the border wall, before President Trump’s administration made his latest push to erect a border wall.
CNN’s Heidi Childs and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.