US

California Sues Trump Over The Border Wall, Citing Environmental Laws

California on Wednesday added to its long list of immigration-related legal actions against President Donald Trump, suing the administration over plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The lawsuit, filed in the San Diego federal court, aims “to protect the State of California’s residents, natural resources, economic interests, procedural rights, and sovereignty from violations of the United States Constitution” and federal law, reports the Los Angeles Times.

In planning to build the wall, the Department of Homeland Security has failed to comply with federal and state environmental laws and relied on federal statues that don’t authorize construction of a border barrier, according to the lawsuit. The brief also alleges the federal government violated the U.S. Constitution’s separation-of-powers doctrine “by vesting in the Executive Branch the power to waive state and local laws, including state criminal law.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the lawsuit during a visit to Border Field State Park near San Diego, where DHS plans to begin construction of wall prototypes this fall. Becerra has overseen more than two dozen legal actions against the Trump administration, including major lawsuits to prevent it from winding down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and from withholding federal grants from sanctuary cities.

Wednesday’s border wall lawsuit asks a judge for an injunction against building the wall until DHS shows compliance with environmental laws, reports Reuters. Becerra is also asking the court to rule that DHS cannot waive any federal guidelines in order to expedite the project.

California’s lawsuit is one of several that argues border wall construction would violate environmental laws. The Center for Biological Diversity has filed multiple lawsuits against the Trump administration, alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

However, several federal statutes give the homeland security secretary wide latitude to waive certain laws and regulations that could interfere with the construction of border security infrastructure. In August, then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly waived 35 environmental regulations in order to expedite wall construction.

The Trump administration has also sought to use a federal anti-terror law to avoid lengthy environmental impact studies required for projects on federal lands. Under the 2005 REAL ID Act, DHS can waive any and all laws “necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads” that would deter illegal border crossings.

DHS officials intend to move forward with the testing phase in the coming months. Officials selected in August the winning contractors who will build prototypes on federally owned land near San Diego.

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