A federal judge ruled in favor of the Trump administration, striking a serious blow to environmentalists trying to stop the construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Environmental groups and the state of California argued the Trump administration lacked the constitutional authority to issue waivers exempting a border wall from environmental reviews. The suit also challenged then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly’s expediting of border wall prototypes along the California-Mexico border.
“Congress delegated to its executive counterpart, the responsibility to construct border barriers as needed in areas of high illegal entry to detect and deter illegal entries,” U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled Tuesday.
Despite the legal defeat, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) vowed to appeal the decision.
BREAKING: We respond to the news that Judge Curiel has ruled in favor of the government to allow it to proceed with waiving environmental laws to proceed with the construction of the border barriers.
— Center for Bio Div (@CenterForBioDiv) February 27, 2018
CBD has another lawsuit against the border wall filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Joined by Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva, the suit seeks to force federal officials to conduct “programmatic environmental impact statement” on the wall and border enforcement.
However, Curiel’s ruling does not bode well for activists challenging the border wall. Congress passed laws in the 1990s and 2000s allowing the executive branch to expedite the construction of border infrastructure.
“In an increasingly complex and changing world, this delegation avoids the need for Congress to pass a new law to authorize the construction of every border project,” Curiel ruled in a 100-page opinion.
Activists also argue a border wall will harm endangered species that roam across the U.S.-Mexico border and run through national monuments and wildlife refuges.
However, the Interior Department has found a lack of border protections has actually harmed the environment. A 2011 DHS report found illegal border crossings had harmed the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona.
“These illegal crossing include the smuggling of undocumented aliens of various nationalities and drugs,” DOI reported. “Smuggling and interdiction activities have resulted in significant impacts to wilderness character, and put other trust resources such as the federally endangered Sonoran pronghorn at risk.”
Republicans on the House Committee on Natural Resources celebrated Curiel’s decision.
VICTORY: Judge Gonzalo Curiel wrote that Congress & the executive branch “share responsibilities in protecting the country from terrorists and contraband illegally entering at the borders” #BorderSecurity https://t.co/07tB3yXN06
— Natural Resources (@NatResources) February 28, 2018
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