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Lawsuits Mount Over Trump Border Wall

A javelina family trapped by a border wall in Arizona. (Matt Clark/Defenders of Wildlife)
A javelina family trapped by a border wall in Arizona. (Matt Clark/Defenders of Wildlife)
May 13, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A coalition of conservation groups has sued the Trump administration over money from the nation's military budget being used to build the southern border wall, arguing that it's both illegal and unconstitutional.

President Donald Trump made the border wall a signature issue of his election campaign, but has been stymied by Congress over funding. Instead, the administration has transferred more than $7 billion from the Defense Department to get it built.

"It's amazing that, in the middle of a pandemic, when we've had more than 80,000 deaths around the country, projects like the border wall are proceeding without, it seems, adequate concern for the public health and safety and welfare," said Jason Rylander, senior counsel for Defenders of Wildlife, one of three conservation groups challenging the transfer.

Defenders of Wildlife was joined by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Animal Legal Defense Fund in filing the lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C. The suit also challenges six waivers that sweep aside dozens of environmental and public health laws to fast-track wall construction in New Mexico, Arizona, California and Texas.

According to the lawsuit, the Trump administration now has allocated more than $18 billion for the border wall, with only one-third of it approved by Congress. Rylander said the groups are concerned about the rule of law, but also the fragile ecosystems being affected by the construction.

"This border wall is going to have significant environmental impacts on cross-border species -- like the jaguar, the Mexican wolf and the ocelot -- not to mention the impacts that it has for cultural sites, Native Americans and other issues."

In February, the administration was sued over the same issue for using Pentagon funds to build the wall by a group of 19 states and the American Civil Liberties Union, the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition.

The lawsuit is online at defenders.org.

Disclosure: Defenders of Wildlife contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, and Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM