California sued the Donald Trump administration on Wednesday to stop construction of a proposed wall on the US border with Mexico, arguing the federal government is overstepping its authority by waiving environmental reviews and other laws, reports AP.
Asked about the lawsuit at an appearance in San Diego, US attorney general Jeff Sessions said he expects to prevail in legal challenges to the wall — one of the president’s key campaign pledges.
“The United States government has the control of that border and a responsibility to secure it,” he told reporters at a landing dock where he touted a record set by the Coast Guard for cocaine seizures.
The California lawsuit came as private contractors prepare to build eight prototypes for the wall in San Diego.
The administration “has once again ignored laws it doesn’t like in order to resuscitate a campaign talking point to build a wall on our southern border,” California attorney general Xavier Becerra said while discussing the case at a news conference in a state park where a fence juts into the Pacific Ocean to separate the US and Mexico.
In a letter to Homeland Security, California governor Jerry Brown said construction would “wreak havoc on an important and well-used commercial corridor”.
The lawsuit filed by Becerra, a Democrat, largely mirrors two others by environmental advocacy groups that allege the administration overstepped its authority to speed construction of the wall.
His complaint specifically addresses stretches of 15 miles (24 kilometers) in San Diego — where the administration will build the prototypes — and three miles (4.8 kilometers) in Calexico, California.
Aides to Becerra believe a victory in the lawsuit would apply to the entire border, stretching nearly 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) through California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
At issue is a 2005 law that gave the Homeland Security secretary broad powers to waive dozens of laws for border barriers, including the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act.
The Trump administration has issued two waivers since August, both in California. President George W. Bush’s administration issued the previous five waivers in 2008.
Legal challenges to border barriers have failed over the years amid concerns about national security. The Congressional Research Service said in a report this year for members of Congress that it saw no legal impediment to Trump’s proposed wall if deemed appropriate for controlling the border.
Becerra’s lawsuit — like one filed by the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and Animal Legal Defense Fund — contends the government’s power to waive the laws expired in 2008, when it met a congressional requirement for erecting fences on about one-third of the border.