California Sues Trump Administration Over Border Wall Plan

Updated on
  • State Attorney General Xavier Becerra files lawsuit over wall
  • Governor Jerry Brown called wall proposal ‘preposterous’

Dusk falls over a section of the U.S.-Mexico border fence on Oct. 8, 2006, near Campo, California.

Photographer: David McNew/Getty Images

California sued the Trump administration over its plan to build a wall along the state’s border with Mexico aimed at keeping the country’s “bad hombres” out of the U.S.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed the complaint Wednesday, in the most populous state’s latest act of political resistance to President Donald Trump’s immigration policies aimed at sealing U.S. borders.

California’s southern boundary already has a 47-mile (76 kilometer) wall that stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the outskirts of suburban San Diego. Trump’s plans to expand it have triggered an outpouring of condemnation from the state’s Democratic leaders, including Governor Jerry Brown, who in March 2016 called the proposal “absolutely preposterous.”

The lawsuit adds to the state’s burgeoning pushback against the president’s agenda, including lawsuits challenging Trump’s travel ban that targeted mostly Muslim nations and his threat to punish so-called sanctuary cities that fail to cooperate with a federal effort to deport undocumented immigrants. Governor Brown is close to signing into law a measure that would make California the first sanctuary state.

“The president is committed to keeping America safe, and a significant part of doing that is securing the border,” Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said in an emailed statement. “The Department of Justice looks forward to vigorously defending his inherent authority to do so.”

Wall Framework

Trump signed the “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” executive order on Jan. 25, laying out a broad framework for construction of the border wall. That order cites the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which allows the government to waive certain laws for construction of border security infrastructure.

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An amended version of the act authorized the Department of Homeland Security to install “additional physical barriers” to deter illegal crossings along “not less than 700 miles of the southwest border,” while requiring the department’s secretary to identify priority areas for construction by Dec. 31, 2008. Becerra claims the administration is relying on a provision “nine years after the authority to waive laws for expedited construction expired.”

In addition, the areas marked for construction are not “high illegal entry” regions where fencing would be most “practical and effective.”

The state is asking the court to prohibit the Trump administration from “engaging in any and all planning, design and construction activities related to installing barriers” along San Diego’s border, until the government is in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. It also alleges that the waivers issued by the administration violate the 10th Amendment of the Constitution since it would grant them “indefinite and open-ended” power to waive state laws.

The border wall is among Trump’s highest priorities. On Aug. 22, he threatened a government shutdown to force Congress into funding its construction. He also called Democratic lawmakers who have objected to the plan “obstructionists.”
The case is California v. U.S.A, 17-cv-01911, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).

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