Liberals have complained that a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico would engender hard feelings among Mexicans seeking to sneak into the country.
If that argument leaves you scratching your head, try this alternative rationale for opposing such a wall. It was cooked up by an Arizona-based environmental group that plans to sue the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to block the Trump administration from moving forward on the testing of prototypes for its proposed border wall.
The Center For Biological Diversity, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection of native species, sent a formal notice of intent Thursday to DHS Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. The group claims the border wall will destroy sensitive natural habitats and that proceeding with construction without an environmental impact review is a violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Center spokesman Brian Segee says the Trump administration hasn’t even paid “lip service” to protecting the environment, which would suffer “widespread damage” as a result of the wall’s construction.
Segee added in a statement:
The administration’s failure to consider the impacts of these border-wall prototypes shows a striking disregard for our nation’s irreplaceable natural heritage and doesn’t bode well for how the administration will approach construction of the wall itself, which would be a disaster for people and wildlife alike.
The lawsuit would be the second the Center has filed naming the Trump administration over the border wall specifically and its sixteenth federal lawsuit targeting the White House’s environmental agenda in general. In April, the group filed a lawsuit to force DHS to prepare a “programmatic environmental impact statement” on the effects of border enforcement operations.
The Center’s latest lawsuit comes as Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the main border security agency under the DHS umbrella, is preparing to test 20 prototypes selected from hundreds submitted in April. CBP announced in May that it has selected finalists, who will construct mock-ups of their wall designs for testing and evaluation on a stretch of federally-owned land near the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego.
Border security officials chose San Diego as the testing location because the prototypes can be evaluated against existing border barriers in the area and because it is one of the most heavily-trafficked stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border. The testing area is also home to several vernal pools, temporary wetlands that provide a habitat endangered species, according to the Center’s notice.
The Center claims that CBP’s plan for prototype construction is a violation of the ESA, which requires federal agencies to first consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service about how construction projects could effect sensitive environments. If an endangered species or critical habitat is present, agencies must prepare a biological assessment to determine whether their proposed action “may affect” or “is not likely to adversely affect” any species listed under the ESA.
A separate federal law may preempt the ESA’s requirements when it comes to border security related projects. The 2005 federal REAL ID Act gives the DHS secretary authority to waive any laws “necessary to ensure expeditious construction” of barriers and roads along the border.
This report, by Will Racke, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.