Environmental groups on Monday demanded a federal appeals court step in and block President Trump from building any new fencing on the southwest border, saying the administration has outstripped its legal bounds in waving dozens of laws to speed up construction.
The appeal will be heard by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has been decidedly anti-Trump in its immigration rulings so far — so much so that the Supreme Court has yanked on the appeals court’s leash in several major immigration cases over the last year.
In this case, a federal judge sided with Mr. Trump earlier this year, saying his Homeland Security Department was acting within the laws passed by Congress, which give the secretary wide latitude to decide where and how much fencing to build, and to waive environmental laws that could hinder construction.
The Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife had each sued, as had California. The environmental groups each announced appeals Monday.
Lawyers for the groups say the waivers are outdated and can’t be used by Mr. Trump for projects Congress envisioned more than a decade ago. But Judge Gonzalo Curiel, an Obama appointee to the court who had been the personal target of a vicious attack by Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign, sided with the Trump administration.
He said there was no timeline on the powers granted to the secretary.
The environmental groups said they’re looking for the appeals court to halt the waivers, which cover some of the country’s most iconic statutes, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Antiquities Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and the Eagle Protection Act.
“Trump is ignoring bedrock environmental protections and relying on a congressional waiver that expired years ago,” said Brian Segee, a senior attorney at the CBD. “He’s on a rampage to fulfill a hateful political promise, bulldozing forward with no concern for how much damage these walls will inflict on communities and wildlife.”
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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