by Kevin Daley
California will appeal a decision allowing construction of a portion of President Donald Trump’s border wall, after a federal judge found the administration can waive environmental laws governing such projects.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called the proposed barrier “medieval” and vowed to continue protecting the state from “federal overreach.” The lower court decision ensures the barrier can be built on an accelerated timetable.
“When we said that a medieval wall along the U.S.-Mexico border does not belong in the 21st century, we meant it,” Becerra said. “There are environmental and public health laws in place, and we continue to believe that the Trump administration is violating those laws.”
“We are committed to protecting our people, our values, and our economy from federal overreach,” he added.
The state filed its notice of appeal Monday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Such filings do not include detailed legal arguments, which will appear in a subsequent brief.
Becerra sued the Trump administration in September 2017 to stop construction of a stretch of wall near San Diego, extending eastward from the Pacific Ocean. Becerra, a Democrat, argues the U.S. Department of Homeland Security cannot waive relevant provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act, which, under normal circumstances, would impose numerous constraints on the administration’s plans.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel disagreed, finding Congress gave the executive branch significant discretion in enacting measures to protect the border in a late February ruling.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
The judge previously presided over the civil fraud lawsuit against Trump University, a for-profit real estate training program owned and operated by the Trump Organization. Curiel found against Trump at several points throughout the case, prompting the president to accuse him of bias given his Mexican heritage.
“I think it has to do with perhaps the fact that I’m very, very strong on the border,” Trump told Fox News in February 2016. “Now, he is Hispanic, I believe. He is a very hostile judge to me.”
He elsewhere argued his support for a border wall created a conflict of interest for Curiel.
The president settled the case for $25 million during the transition.
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