Trump declares victory in court case, but threatens California border projects

A barrier built in the 1990s in Calexico from recycled metal scraps and landing mat is being torn down for bollard-style posts.
(Sandy Huffaker / AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump hailed his administration’s “big victory” in court in a case that challenged his proposed border wall, but threatened Wednesday to delay improving some sections of the existing border barrier in California.

His tweet, an apparent attempt to punish California, seemed to be an effort to fuel the continuing battle between the state’s liberal, pro-immigration officials and Trump’s White House.

Trump’s administration won an order Tuesday from a federal judge in San Diego, who ruled that the administration did not abuse its authority in waiving some environmental laws and other regulations when it began building new barriers and demonstration projects in Southern California.


U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who ruled in the case, is the same judge Trump disparagingly called “a Mexican” during his 2016 campaign, even though the judge was born in the United States.

But what Trump meant by requiring California wait for some border-fence improvements was hard to pin down.

As has been the case for months, Trump appears to be including any sort of upgrade in border fencing as part of his proposed “wall.”

Each border patrol sector has identified what stretches of new or improved border barriers should be built first. Trump appeared to be saying he’d want to build sections in other states before those in California.

Even though Trump’s tweet said he would delay sections of the wall that “California wants,” those decisions generally are made by the federal government and not the state. His tweet suggested that he thinks that would be a way to punish California for statewide policies limiting cooperation with immigration officials.

There are several sections of the border in Southern California where the federal government is already working on upgrading barriers. The government has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars as part of a years-long project to upgrade the San Ysidro border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana, for example.


There’s also the fence upgrade project in Calexico that the Border Patrol just last week touted as part of the “border wall.”

Whether Trump would delay any of those projects, for which Congress has appropriated money, remains unclear.