California Attorney General Sues to Prevent Building of Trump’s Border-Wall Projects

Becerra: Trump administration is violating the Constitution in order to build the wall

View of metal fence from international bridge between Mexico and the U.S. / Getty Images

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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced a lawsuit on behalf of the state that would attempt to block any projects related to President Donald Trump's promised border wall between the U.S. and Mexico by deeming them unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, which is being filed in federal court, argues that the Trump administration has violated federal and state environmental laws, which it recently waived under an immigration provision in a 2005 law giving the Homeland Security secretary the power to do so.

Becerra argues that that law allowing the waiver violated the U.S. Constitutions' separation-of-powers doctrine to short-cut requirements under the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act for environmental analysis of the impact of the border-wall prototypes.

"The border between the U.S. and Mexico spans some 2,000 miles and the list of laws violated by the president's administration in order to build his campaign wall is almost as long," Becerra said Wednesday in remarks at Border Field State Park near San Diego.

The Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, would waive 37 federal statutes, as well as regulations related to those statutes, in order to build prototypes for the border-wall and eventually the wall itself, he said.

"It would also violate numerous state and local laws here in our great state of California," he said.

The suit includes the California Coastal Commission as a plaintiff and is aimed at protecting the state's "residents, natural resources, economic interests, procedural rights, and sovereignty from violations of the United States Constitution and federal law."

The lawsuit also argues that any border wall-related projects would have a chilling effect on tourism to the United States from Mexico.

DHS used the 2005 Real ID Act, which amended the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to give the Homeland Security secretary the power to waive federal, state, and local laws, to expedite construction of the double- and triple-layer border fencing in San Diego.

The waiver authority was later interpreted to apply to border-wall construction under the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which requires DHS to build 700 miles of border barriers.

However, opponents argue DHS met this mandate several years ago using the Real ID law five times to meet more than 35 laws involving 625 miles of border wall and barrier construction

In early August, DHS announced that it would waive environmental and other regulations to try to "ensure expeditious construction of barriers and roads" near the U.S.-Mexico border south of San Diego, where the agency is planning to build its prototypes for the border wall.

DHS justified the move by arguing the location remains one of the busiest for illegal crossings in the country, an area of "high illegal entry for which there is an immediate need to improve current infrastructure and construct additional barriers and roads."

The CBP "apprehended more than 31,000 illegal aliens and seized 9,167 pounds of marijuana and 1,317 pounds of cocaine in the San Diego sector" in fiscal year 2016 alone, DHS said in a release.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced in September the selection of four companies that will build prototypes. Construction of the prototypes is set to begin as early as later this month, although it's unclear how urgent any groundbreaking in the project is to the administration. Trump last week struck a vaguely outlined deal with Democrats to protect an estimated 700,000 children of illegal immigrants who have spent years in the United States from deportation in exchange for stronger border security.

The prototype project is already funded through $20 million Congress set aside from this year's annual budget, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have said they don't plan to provide any other money for the wall.

In the deal last week with Democrats, Trump agreed not to demand funding for his border wall in exchange for signing the bill protecting the children of illegal immigrants, beneficiaries of President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Program, which has suffered several legal setbacks in the courts.

The litigation is not the first against Trump's promised border wall. Several environmental group, including the Center for Biological Diversity, have filed lawsuits arguing that the DHS waivers are unconstitutional. Additionally, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D., Ariz.) in April asked a district court judge in his state to require an updated environmental review of the wall's impact before the DHS waived the laws requiring such an analysis.

Becerra's lawsuit against the border wall is just one of several steps Democrat-controlled California has taken in recent weeks both to send a message that that state is rejecting Trump's policies and to try to legally insulate the state from them.

On Tuesday, Becerra, along with representatives from 17 other states, filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court opposing the administration's travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority countries.

Over the weekend, the state legislature passed a bill declaring California a "sanctuary state" that gave illegal immigrants protections from deportation by federal authorities and prevents local law enforcement from notifying U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials of illegal immigrants they are holding for alleged crimes.

Susan Crabtree

Susan Crabtree   Email Susan | Full Bio | RSS
Susan Crabtree is a senior writer for the Washington Free Beacon. She is a veteran Washington reporter who has covered the White House and Congress over the past two decades. She has written for the Washington Examiner, the Washington Times, the Hill newspaper, Roll Call, and Congressional Quarterly.

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