A San Diego federal judge ruled in favor of the United States government in a suit aimed at halting construction of the promised border wall between Mexico and the U.S.
The state of California and a coalition of environmental groups filed the suit before the federal court for the Southern District of California arguing that the U.S. government was trying to skirt environmental regulations in its rush to build the wall.
Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who had been previously disparaged by President Donald Trump, concluded that the court had no “serious constitutional doubts” about the authority of the U.S. government to waive environmental laws.
“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.
President Trump had lambasted Judge Curiel when the latter presided over the case against the now-defunct Trump University, which ended shortly after the election in a $25-million settlement.
At that time, then-candidate Trump had expressed that the judge, who was born in Indiana, could not be impartial in overseeing the case because of his Mexican heritage, given that Trump was building a wall with Mexico.
Curiel never publicly responded to the attacks by the Republican candidate.
Gloria Smith, an attorney for Sierra Club, one of the groups behind the suit, lamented the court’s decision, as she feels these waivers in order to build the wall could cause irreparable damage.
“The effects of these waivers and the destruction of a border wall will be long-lasting and detrimental for border communities,” she said in a written statement. “They are critical protections that were put in place for a reason– to protect people, their communities, and the environment that we depend upon.”
The plaintiffs, which included the California Attorney General and the Coastal Commission, tried to argue that the federal government had violated the Constitution by ignoring state laws and not performing environmental impact studies, which will end up affecting dozens of species that call the border region their home.
The federal government, on the other hand, argued that it acted in accordance to a power granted by Congress over a decade ago to waive these types of regulations in National Security matters.
Despite the court’s decision, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a press released that, “we remain unwavering in our belief that the Trump Administration is ignoring laws it doesn’t like in order to resuscitate a campaign talking point.”
“We will evaluate all of our options and are prepared to do what is necessary to protect our people, our values, and our economy from federal overreach. A medieval wall along the U.S.-Mexico border simply does not belong in the 21st century,” the statement reads.
Although the decision gets the Trump Administration one step closer to fulfilling one of its main campaign promises, it does not make it a done deal. Congress would still have to approve funding to actually build the wall, which is estimated at upwards of $18 billion.