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State government

California sues to stop Trump's border wall: 'No one gets to ignore the laws. Not even the president'

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that President Trump’s proposal to expedite construction of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border violates laws aimed at protecting the environment.

Becerra announced the legal challenge standing in front of the existing border fencing at Border Field State Park near San Diego, saying the federal government failed to comply with federal environmental laws and relied on federal statutes that don’t authorize border wall projects in San Diego and Imperial counties. 

“No one gets to ignore the laws. Not even the president of the United States,” Becerra said. “The border between the U.S. and Mexico spans some 2,000 miles. The list of laws violated by the president’s administration in order to build his campaign wall is almost as long.”

He said the project involves the improper waiver of 37 federal statutes, many aimed at protecting the environment.

Filed in federal court in San Diego and including the California Coastal Commission as a plaintiff, the lawsuit states its purpose is “to protect the State of California’s residents, natural resources, economic interests, procedural rights, and sovereignty from violations of the United States Constitution” and federal law.

Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra at the U.S.- Mexico border where he announced lawsuit to stop a proposal for a border wall. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra at the U.S.- Mexico border where he announced lawsuit to stop a proposal for a border wall. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The lawsuit also alleges that federal officials have not shown any data suggesting new border barriers in the San Diego area will reduce illegal entry into the U.S., nor that there is a significant problem in that area.

It adds that the wall would have a chilling effect on tourism to the United States from Mexico.

In August, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a notice that it was waiving federal and state laws on the environment to expedite the construction of prototypes of the wall along the San Diego border with Mexico.

The California lawsuit claims the federal government violated the U.S. Constitution’s separation-of-powers doctrine “by vesting in the Executive Branch the power to waive state and local laws.”

The lawsuit also says the Department of Homeland Security decided to build the walls without complying with the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act.

As a result, the lawsuit alleges, the federal government lacks proper environmental analysis of the impact of the 400-foot prototypes of the wall currently planned, as well as the 2,000-mile-long final wall.

A federal official declined comment.

“As a matter of policy, we do not comment on pending litigation,” said Tyler Q. Houlton, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.

State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) stood with Becerra at the event, saying the wall is unnecessary and will put a barrier between relations involving the two countries. 

“Maybe to people in Iowa, it sounds like a really good idea,” she said. “We don’t need more structure. We need a good relationship [with Mexico].” 

Times staff writers McGreevy reported from Sacramento and Ulloa from San Diego.

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