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California Sues to Stop Wall Construction for Environmental Studies

Ian Mason

Open-borders California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed suit in federal court in San Diego Wednesday, seeking to have the courts block construction of President Donald Trump’s promised border wall.

In the 53-page, 11 count complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Becerra, joined by the California Coastal Commission, is asking for the wall to be stopped on the basis of federal environmental protection laws. The suit, filed against the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, targets DHS’s announced plans for wall construction in the San Diego, CA area. It threatens to tie up yet another Trump administration immigration priority in the courts.

Becerra’s complaint relies on federal environmental laws including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), among almost thirty others. In essence, California is arguing the efforts by the Trump administration to waive these acts’ extensive demands on the projects on the border are illegal. The state, home to the country’s largest population of illegal aliens, wants the full extent of NEPA environmental impact studies and demonstrations of compliance with the Coastal Commission’s “California Coastal Management Program” before even preliminary work on wall construction can move forward. California is seeking declarations and injunctions to that effect.

President Trump, in Executive Order 13767, gave DHS and CBP broad authority to get the wall projects moving under, among other sources, the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). California is arguing the (IIRIRA), despite specifically authorizing physical barriers be built along the southern border, is not broad enough allow the administration to overlook the harms that may come to the state from construction. The complaint also asks the court to review DHS and CBP action as “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act.

Much of the claimed damage to California from the wall projects concerns natural resources and wildlife. Elsewhere, however, the wall’s very effectiveness on humans is cited as a problem. Beccera’s complaint argues, for example, that the executive order is invalid for the effect it will have on Californian tourism from Mexico:

Further, the Executive Order and the threat of the Border Wall has had and will have a “chilling effect” on California tourism from Mexico. California prides itself on its open and welcoming nature to citizens and non-citizens alike. It is this nature that helps drive the State’s strong tourism economy, especially from Mexico, our neighbor to the South.

The Department of Justice is likely to respond to the lawsuit with a motion to dismiss, which will be due before the court in 60 days.

Wednesday’s filing is hardly Becerra’s first attempt to derail the Trump immigration agenda. Claiming to “know the true value of diversity,” Beccera taunted the newly elected Trump to “come at us” in December. Since then he has been conducting what one California assemblyman described as a “long, legal war” against immigration enforcement and border security. This month, that war entered a new dogmatic phase when Beccera claimed, without explanation, that rescinding an executive order, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), was unconstitutional.

The case challenging wall construction is California ex rel. Becerra v. United States, No. 3:17-cv-1911 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

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