A federal court cleared the way Tuesday for President Trump to build his border wall, ruling that the administration has the power to waive a series of environmental laws to speed up construction. The state of California and environmental groups had been counting on the lawsuit to derail the border wall and called the decision disappointing. The ruling is a major boost for the president and is all the more striking because it comes from Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, whom Mr. Trump famously called biased during the 2016 presidential campaign because of his Mexican heritage. Judge Curiel said he wasn’t opining on whether a wall was good or bad policy but had to conclude that the government has the power to build it. “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices,” he wrote in a 101-page ruling. His decision does not ease fights over land rights, which could delay some construction in areas such as Texas, where much of the border is on private property. Nor does the ruling grant Mr. Trump funding for the wall. That must come from Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have been sparring over how much to grant, and over what concessions to demand in return — such as a full amnesty for illegal immigrant Dreamers. But the judge’s ruling does overcome a major legal hurdle that opponents had raised, citing the Trump administration’s intent to waive some three dozen laws to build fencing. Among them are some of the country’s most iconic statutes: the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Antiquities Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, and the Eagle Protection Act. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife all filed lawsuits, which were consolidated into one case in front of Judge Curiel. The opponents argued that the waiver laws Mr. Trump is using were unconstitutional and, even if they were legal, they applied only to fencing that was built under Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama and couldn’t be stretched to Mr. Trump’s plans. Judge Curiel rejected all those claims. The Justice Department, which scored a rare victory in district courts on one of Mr. Trump’s immigration proposals, cheered the ruling. “Congress gave authority to the Department of Homeland Security to construct a border wall without delay to prevent illegal entry into the United States, and we are pleased DHS can continue this important work vital to our nation’s interests,” Justice spokesman Devin O’Malley said.
It’s a small victory. But, we’ll take it. And, we give credit where credit is due. So, kudos to Judge Curiel. 🙂