A California judge ruled Tuesday that the Trump administration can waive numerous environmental laws and regulations in order to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, rejecting legal challenges by environmental advocacy groups as well as the state of California.
What were the lawsuits about?
In order to build a wall across the southern border, the Department of Homeland Security needs to get around some laws and regulations that could hold up construction.
Lawsuits against the Trump administration argued that DHS didn’t have the authority to waive those laws, and that its any attempt to waive them would be unconstitutional.
Why did the judge reject the challenges?
From the decision written by U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel:
“Both Congress and the Executive share responsibilities in protecting the country from terrorists and contraband illegally entering at the borders. Border barriers, roads, and detection equipment help provide a measure of deterrence against illegal entries.”
“With section 102, 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. 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 also made it clear that the contentious politics of the wall did not factor into the decision.
“In its review of this case, the Court cannot and does not consider whether underlying decisions to construct the border barriers are politically wise or prudent,” he wrote.
What did Trump say about the decision?
While the ruling would free the project up from significant legal delays, the wall has not yet been funded. Trump is planning to view wall prototypes in San Diego in March.
Is this the end of it?
Probably not. Brian Segee, a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, told CNN he intends to appeal. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he will “evaluate all of our options.”
About the judge
Curiel was the presiding judge over a since-settled lawsuit against Trump University in 2016. During the 2016 campaign, then-candidate Trump accused him of being biased because of his Mexican heritage. When pressed on why Curiel's heritage meant that he could not render a fair decision in the Trump University case, Trump specifically cited his campaign promise to build a wall on the border of Mexico as a central reason, declaring, "Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall, OK? I'm building a wall."