Kevin Daley, DCNF
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a challenge to President Donald Trump’s border wall Monday, which asserted that the administration violated the Constitution when it exempted border barrier projects from environmental regulations.
The plaintiffs warn of adverse effects to local ecosystems should the administration raise a wall along the border with Mexico.
“It’s disappointing that the Supreme Court won’t consider this important constitutional issue,” Brian Segee, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), told The Daily Caller News Foundation by email. “Trump has abused his power to wreak havoc along the border to score political points. He’s illegally sweeping aside bedrock environmental and public health laws. We’ll continue to fight Trump’s dangerous wall in the courts and in Congress.”
A 1996 law authorized the attorney general (and later the Homeland Security secretary) to build border barriers to deter illegal immigration. In that connection, the law gave the Department of Homeland Security secretary power to exempt certain border projects from environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act, as well as other legal rules, to ensure quick construction.
The law also restricts the jurisdiction of courts to hear legal challenges to the secretary’s waivers, and provides that such lawsuits must be lodged on an accelerated timetable.
A coalition of green advocacy groups sued after the Trump administration issued two waivers under the ’96 law for border wall projects in southern California. The plaintiffs argued the waiver and jurisdictional provisions violate the constitutional separation of powers.
“[The ’96 law] effectively allows an unelected cabinet secretary to repeal existing laws, and then shields the repeals from judicial review,” the CBD’s petition to the high court reads. The petition urged the justices to curtail the “extraordinary conferral of waiver authority that fundamentally distorts the allocation of power in our tripartite system of government.”
U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel sided with the federal government at an earlier stage of the case, prompting the appeal to the Supreme Court.
The president has clashed with Curiel in the past, as Curiel presided over a civil suit against Trump University, a real estate training program that has since closed.
2020 aspirant Robert “Beto” O’Rourke is among the signatories to an amicus (or “friend of the court”) brief from Democratic lawmakers urging the justices to hear the case.
Trump has made funding for the border wall a priority during the lame duck Congress, threatening to shut down the government if the project is not funded in full by year’s end.
“We need border security in this country, and if that means a shutdown I would totally be willing to shut it down,” Trump said on Nov. 28. “And I think it’s a really bad issue for the Democrats.”