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San Diego Federal Judge Curiel Rules In Favor Of Government In Border Wall Construction Case

Brandon Quester/inewsource
A photo of the U.S.-Mexico border wall in San Diego, Aug. 16, 2017.
San Diego Federal Judge Curiel Rules In Favor Of Government In Border Wall Construction Case
San Diego Federal Judge Curiel Rules In Favor Of Government In Border Wall Construction Case GUEST: Jean Guerrero, Fronteras reporter, KPBS News

>>> One legal challenge to the border wall was stopped in its tracks, by a ruling from a federal judge in San Diego, California and a number of environmental organizations claim that the department of homeland security could not disregard environmental laws in order to fast-track the new border wall project. The judge disagree, and sided with the trumpet ministration, the same judge who's impartiality was questioned by Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Joining me is Jean Guerrero, welcome back. >> Good to be here. >> Remind us what the argument was, from the environmental groups, why were they challenging the border wall construction? >> First of all, the administration is invoking a statute that allows homeland security to waive environmental and historic preservation laws, and the plaintiffs are concerned that this will bring unnecessary harm to local wildlife, including endangered species, the different plaintiffs had different arguments, the Attorney General said it only applies to areas of high illegal entry, that was something that was addressed in the rolling. Invited -- the environmental group say that the waivers that are being invoked have expired, that they no longer apply, they expired 10 years ago, and if they have an expired, that they are unconstitutional, they say that they gave them boundless power essentially to waive laws for border security infrastructure. >> The ruling was handled down by Judge Gonzalo Curiel , the same judge who's impartiality was -- who's impartiality was questioned by Donald Trump because of his heritage, what was his ruling, and what does it allow the trumpet ministration to move forward on? >> He addressed all the different points about -- brought by the plaintiffs, but he said he does not have serious constitutional doubts regarding the statute.'s main point, and he noted that amendments to the statute that broaden the waiver authority in 2005 were upheld as constitutional. >> If California had won, would that have stopped anything, because they have already been built? >> The prototypes have been built, but there are two replacement projects, to replace fencing in both San Diego and El Centro, currently the one and El Centro is underway, for three miles of replacement fencing, and the one in San Diego is 415 miles of replacement fencing, essentially if Judge Gonzalo Curiel had ruled against the government, I could have halted the projects, but it looks like they will be able to move forward still seems to be in the that that those border fencing in California won't move forward until the entire border wall is built. So there still remains this big? Over those two projects. Getting back to Judge Gonzalo Curiel 's decision, how technical was the decision? But parts of it were pretty technical, the statute in question allows homeland security to waive laws for additional barriers and roads, and when it came down to was, what is the meaning of additional? And the judge cited in his ruling, the plaintiffs, going to the dictionary, additional means more, extra attic, it doesn't apply, two replacement products, to what the ministration is rented in California, a narrow get -- definition, strengthening the barriers can be added to them, and they said they have reasonable interpretations, no clear violations, of the statue. >> Did Judge Gonzalo Curiel make mention of the amount of attention this has brought, and some soft glancing references to their history. >> He mentions the heated political debate upfront, it is not the court's job to consider whether the projects in question are politically wise or prudent, to interpret the law, and he mentioned the roots, he quoted a fellow Indiana native, Chief Justice Roberts, the consequences of political choices, an interesting thing to note in his ruling. >> What reaction have you heard from the groups that sued? >> The Center for biological diversity said immediately that they plan to appeal with the Supreme Court, and that -- the timeframe will likely be in the next couple of months. >> Apparently President Trump thinks of this ruling is a victory? >> Exactly, [ Laughter ], he treated big victory with ruling from the courts that allowed us to proceed, in all caps, our country must have border security. And he said that sections of the wall that California wants built now will not be billed until the whole wall is approved. It is unclear what he is up -- referring to, by the sections that California wants, because the California Attorney General is one of the claimants against the wall, groups in favor and against the project, no real consensus in California when it comes to the wall, and when he says the whole wall, he doesn't mean a coast-to-coast wall, I think it's important to be aware of the fact that he is referring, when he says whole wall, stretches of the wall that have not been funded, the projects that are currently underway in California have funding, and when he says the whole wall, he's talking about the prototypes, which he has said will not be a continuous coast-to-coast wall, when pressed by reporters for details by the project. It is a confusing tree, but it looks like he is trying to leverage this victory to pressure Congress to provide funding for the wall, that is based on the prototypes. >> I have been speaking with KPBS reporter Jean Guerrero, thank you. >> Thank you.

A federal judge in San Diego ruled in favor of the U.S. government on Tuesday in a lawsuit that challenges the Trump administration’s effort to bypass environmental and other laws to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

RELATED: America's Wall: Decades-Long Struggle To Secure US-Mexico Border

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Judge Gonzalo Curiel said he does not have “serious constitutional doubts” regarding a statute that grants Homeland Security the authority to waive environmental laws for border security infrastructure.

BORDER INFRASTRUCTURE ENVIRONMENTAL LITIGATION
Judge Gonzalo Curiel's decision on the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
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“In its review of this case, the court cannot and does not consider whether underlying decisions to construct the border barriers are politically wise or prudent,” he wrote in his 101-page decision.

He quoted Chief Justice Roberts: “Court(s) are vested with the authority to interpret the law … It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”

Curiel also noted that previous amendments to the statute broadening the government's waiver authority in 2005 were upheld as constitutional.

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RELATED: Ruling Expected Soon In Trump Border-Wall Case

A senior attorney for one of the plaintiffs, the Center for Biological Diversity, said the environmental organization plans to appeal the ruling with the Supreme Court.

“The Trump administration has completely overreached its authority in its rush to build this destructive, senseless wall," Brian Segee said. "They’re giving unprecedented, sweeping power to an unelected agency chief to ignore dozens of laws and crash through hundreds of miles of spectacular borderlands. This is unconstitutional and shouldn’t be allowed to stand.”

He called the ruling "disappointing," saying it "would allow Trump to shrug off crucial environmental laws that protect people and wildlife."

Other plaintiffs included the California Attorney General, the California Coastal Commission and others.

In 2016, Curiel became famous after then-presidential candidate Donald Trump repeatedly criticized him as biased saying, “He’s a Mexican.”

San Diego Federal Judge Curiel Rules In Favor Of Government In Border Wall Construction Case
A federal judge in San Diego ruled in favor of the U.S. government on Tuesday in a lawsuit that challenges the Trump administration’s effort to bypass environmental and other laws to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.