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Trump Ignored Laws, Constitution To Fast Track Wall, California Says

Among the claims in a lawsuit California filed Wednesday is that DHS's authority to waive laws to build barriers on the border expired in 2008.

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California sued the Trump administration Wednesday over its plans to build a wall along the US–Mexico border, accusing it of violating environmental laws and the US Constitution.

The complaint asked the court to stop the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from taking any further action on the construction of the wall or replacing existing barriers until it complies with environmental laws. It also asked the court to stop DHS from waiving any laws in order to expedite the project in California.

“The Trump Administration has once again ignored laws it doesn’t like in order to resuscitate a campaign talking point to build a wall on our southern border,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “President Trump has yet to pivot from candidate Trump to leader of a nation built on the rule of law. That's dangerous.”

The Center for Biological Diversity filed the first lawsuit against the wall in April.

Devin O'Malley, spokesperson for the Department of Justice, said Trump is committed to keeping the US safe, and that securing the border is a "significant part" of it.

"The Department of Justice looks forward to vigorously defending his inherent authority to do so," O'Malley said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

Shortly after taking office, Trump signed an executive order directing DHS to move forward with building the “big, beautiful wall” that became the cornerstone of his campaign.

The administration is already moving forward with construction of prototypes for the promised wall in San Diego. In August, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced which companies would build the 30-foot-long and 30-foot-tall prototypes.

California is among a handful of states that are pushing back against the administrations policies. Last week, California lawmakers passed a sanctuary state law that would limit how police work with federal immigration agents.

Trump has suffered some loses in court at the hands of states. Both Hawaii and Washington challenged Trump's efforts to bar travel to the United States for citizens of certain Muslim-majority nations. The administration conceded defeat against Washington State after losing an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and it lost an appeal of a Hawaii judge’s ruling on the travel ban. But the Supreme Court reinstated parts of the ban when it agreed to hear the case next month.

Wednesday’s lawsuit focuses on wall construction in California's San Diego and Imperial counties, alleging that DHS failed to comply with several environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act.

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It also takes issue with moves former DHS Secretary and now White House Chief of Staff John Kelly made to expedite the construction of the border wall under a section of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.

The lawsuit says the authority Kelly cited to waive laws to install additional barriers on the border expired in 2008, and that in any case, the influx of undocumented migrants has declined sharply in the San Diego area.

Becerra said the “improper” use of the provision violated the Separation of Powers doctrine and the 10th Amendment.

“The Constitution does not permit government officials to unilaterally and arbitrarily waive any law of their choosing, including criminal laws and laws enacted by the states,” Becerra said.


Adolfo Flores is a national security correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. He focuses on immigration.

Contact Adolfo Flores at adolfo.flores@buzzfeed.com.

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