Federal Judge Clears Way for Construction of Border Fence

Elliot Spagat, AP, Dec. 12, 2005

SAN DIEGO—A federal judge on Monday lifted the final legal barrier to building a triple fence in the southwestern corner of the United States.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups argued that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff lacked authority to waive environmental and other laws that have delayed completion of 14 miles of additional fencing in San Diego.

In September, Chertoff waived all laws and legal challenges to building the final 3½-mile leg through coastal wetlands to the Pacific Ocean.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said Congress clearly delegated the authority to Chertoff in June. He noted that the executive branch already had significant jurisdiction over national security and immigration policy.

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The Sierra Club lawsuit, filed in February 2004, said the project threatened the Tijuana River estuary, home to more than 370 migratory and native birds, six of them endangered.

The final leg of the fence would cross steep, rugged canyons including “Smuggler’s Gulch,” a maze of trails long overrun by illegal border crossers. The federal government launched a crackdown in 1994, erecting a steel wall made of surplus Navy landing mats, adding patrols and installing lights and motion sensors.

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