Capitol Alert

Trump’s approach to border wall unconstitutional, California says in lawsuit

California filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that the Trump administration violated state and federal laws and the U.S. Constitution to expedite the construction of a wall along the border in Southern California.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra is seeking an injunction from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California to stop construction of the wall project in San Diego and Calexico.

“In California, that’s not going to fly,” Becerra said at a press conference at Border Field State Park in San Diego. “We respect immigration policy. We understand it’s a federal matter. But if it happens in our backyard, we demand that it be carried out in the right way following the rule of law.”

Becerra and lawyers for the California Coastal Commission claim the Department of Homeland Security illegally waived laws to install physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border under a section of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act that expired in 2008.

The lawsuit claims the federal government is in violation of the separation of powers doctrine and the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, arguing government officials cannot “unilaterally and arbitrarily waive any law of their choosing, including criminal laws and laws enacted by the states.”

Homeland Security sent out a notification in early August that it had waived a series of federal, state and local laws related to the environment, endangered species, water pollution, historic preservation and other subjects to expedite the construction of barriers and roads along the border near San Diego.

The waiver says DHS will replace existing fencing along a 15-mile segment of the border that begins at the Pacific Ocean and continues into San Diego, as well as test out border wall prototypes. The agency issued a similar waiver last week to construct an 18-to-25-foot barrier along a three-mile stretch of the border near Calexico.

The California lawsuit says the federal government is violating environmental laws by attempting to move the border wall project forward without preparing a study to evaluate potential harm in sensitive biological habitats and from pollutants that trucks and other equipments may discharge.

The project will also negatively impact tourism from Mexico, according to the plaintiffs. The lawsuit says Mexican residents made 7.9 million trips to California last year, calling it a “lead economic driver” for the state.

Trump’s campaign promise to step up illegal immigration enforcement and build a border wall has been a controversial subject in California. New federal data show that about 2.9 million undocumented immigrants lived in California in 2014.

Lawmakers at the Capitol approved about a dozen laws this year to benefit immigrants, yet a bill to ban the state from giving contracts to companies that help the federal government build the wall failed to pass.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security says the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna