SAN DIEGO, Jan.8, 2018— The Congressional Hispanic Caucus filed an amicus brief today in U.S. District Court in support of the Center for Biological Diversity’s lawsuit against the Trump administration’s border-wall and prototype projects near San Diego. The lawsuit challenges the Department of Homeland Security’s authority to waive more than 30 environmental laws, and both the lawsuit and the brief assert the waiver is unconstitutional and oversteps the authority of the executive branch.
“The Hispanic Caucus’s brief sheds light on Trump’s blatant disregard for the law in his reckless rush to build this destructive wall,” said Brian Segee, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Hispanic members of Congress are unified in their opposition to the wall, and they’re sending an important message to the court that the borderlands must be protected.”
The amicus brief, drafted by the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, argues that the Trump administration has overstepped its authority under the REAL ID Act of 2005 and that the Homeland Security waivers represent a violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers principle.
“The REAL ID waiver authority does not apply. Congress did not grant perpetual power to any administration to ignore environmental laws on any border project until the end of time,” said Segee. “Trump’s obsession with this ridiculous wall doesn’t mean laws can be thrown out. We’re fighting for the 30-plus laws that protect our environment and communities in the borderlands.”
On Aug. 2 the Center expanded its lawsuit against border-wall and prototype projects in San Diego, challenging the Trump administration’s authority to waive environmental laws and calling for an end to the unconstitutional maneuver.
A hearing is scheduled Feb. 9 before U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego.
The waiver would speed construction of replacement walls, roads, lighting and other infrastructure without any analysis of the environmental impacts or any public input. This region of coastal San Diego County contains wetlands, streams and other rare wildlife habitats, as well as critical habitat for numerous endangered species, including the Quino checkerspot butterfly and the coastal California gnatcatcher.
A study by the Center identified more than 90 endangered or threatened species that would be put at even greater risk of harm by proposed wall construction along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.
The 2005 REAL ID Act amended the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to give unprecedented and sweeping authority to the Department of Homeland secretary to waive federal, state and local laws to expedite construction of the double- and triple-layer border fencing in San Diego.
This waiver authority was later interpreted to apply to border wall construction under the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which requires Homeland to build 700 miles of border barriers. Homeland met this mandate several years ago, using the REAL ID authority five times to waive more than 35 laws on 625 miles of border-wall and barrier construction.
Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations. The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.
Laws suspended by the Aug. 2 waiver are listed below.
- National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq.
- Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq.
- Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§701-706.
- Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq.
- National Historic Preservation Act, Pub. L. 89-665.
- Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 16 U.S.C. § 703 et seq.
- Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7401 et seq.
- Archaeological Resources Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. § 470aa et seq.
- Paleontological Resources Preservation Act, 16 U.S.C. § 470aaa et seq.
- Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988, 16 U.S.C. § 4301 et seq.
- National Trails System Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1241 et seq.
- Safe Drinking Water Act, 42 U.S.C. § 300f et seq.
- Noise Control Act, 42 U.S.C. § 4901 et seq.
- Solid Waste Disposal Act, as amended by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. § 6901 et seq., and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (Superfund), 42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq.
- Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act, 54 U.S.C. § 320301 et seq.
- Antiquities Act, 54 U.S.C. § 320301 et seq.
- Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act, 54 U.S.C. § 3201-320303 & 320101-320106
- Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1281 et seq.
- Farmland Protection Policy Act, 7 U.S.C. § 4201 et seq.
- Coastal Zone Management Act , 16 U.S.C. § 1451 et seq.
- Wilderness Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1131 et seq.
- Federal Land Policy and Management Act, 43 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq.
- National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act and National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, 16 U.S.C. § 668dd-668ee
- National Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956, 16 U.S.C. § 742a et seq.
- Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, 16 U.S.C. § 661 et seq.
- Wild Horse and Burro Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1331 et seq.
- Pub. L. 106-398
- Otay Mountain Wilderness Act of 1999, Pub. L. 106-145
- Sections 102(29) and 103 of Title I of the California Desert Protection Act, Pub. L. 103-433
- Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, 33 U.S.C. § 403
- Eagle Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. § 668 et seq.
- Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, 25 U.S.C. § 3001 et seq.
- American Indian Religious Freedom Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1996
- Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb.