Andrew Chung, Reuters, December 3, 2018
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rebuffed a challenge by three conservation groups to the authority of President Donald Trump’s administration to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a victory for Trump who has made the wall a centerpiece of his hardline immigration policies.
The justices’ declined to hear the groups’ appeal of a ruling by a federal judge in California rejecting their claims that the administration had pursued border wall projects without complying with applicable environmental laws. The groups are the Center for Biological Diversity, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Defenders of Wildlife.
Their lawsuits said construction operations would harm plants, rare wildlife habitats, threatened coastal birds like the snowy plover and California gnatcatcher, and other species such as fairy shrimp and the Quino checkerspot butterfly.
The three conservation groups sued last year in San Diego after the Department of Homeland Security authorized projects to replace existing border fencing at two sites in southern California, as well as the construction of prototype border walls.
U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel in February ruled that the administration had not exceeded its powers. The groups appealed the judge’s decision to the Supreme Court.
Trump criticized Curiel in 2016 in a different case, a lawsuit accusing his now-defunct Trump University of fraud. Trump, while running for president, accused Curiel of being biased against him because of the Indiana-born judge’s Mexican heritage.