Ninth Circuit panel sides with Trump on border wall construction

It’s a well-known fact that President Donald Trump — or Republicans in general, for that matter — hasn’t had the best of luck, legally speaking, with the liberal-dominated Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The California-based court has ruled against the Trump administration on several occasions over the past two years.

Surprisingly, however, the Ninth Circuit just issued a ruling in Trump’s favor — in regard to border wall construction, no less — and upheld a lower court’s decision that the Trump administration has the authority to waive certain regulatory checks in order to speed up the construction process.

Ninth Circuit sides with Trump

A three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit ruled 2-1 that the administration enjoyed prior Congressional authority to act by virtue of the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to proceed with the construction of border walls, fencing, and barriers on the border near the California cities of San Diego and Calexico.

Ironically, the two judges who ruled in Trump’s favor were appointed by former Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The judge who ruled against Trump — on a technicality, mind you, as she otherwise signaled her support — was appointed by former President George W. Bush.

The construction projects were challenged in 2017 by a coalition of environmentalist groups, as well as California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who argued that Trump’s Department of Homeland Security had no authority to waive various environmental and public participation checks prior to starting the proposed construction projects. They claimed a wall or barrier would prove detrimental to the local flora and fauna in the border region.

After a district court ruled against the anti-wall coalition, they immediately attempted to appeal that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, but were denied and had to proceed as normal through the Ninth Circuit.

Congress already authorized construction

A spokesman for the Justice Department, Steven Stafford, explained in a statement to The Hill that Congress had already legislatively authorized the executive branch to construct border barriers where necessary, and said, “Today the court has affirmed that authority, and that is a victory for the Trump administration, for the rule of law, and above all, for our border security.”

Of course, the Trump-hating California AG Becerra and the coalition of environmentalist groups were displeased by the ruling. The environmentalists decried how Congress had ceded their authority to the Trump administration while lamenting the dangers posed to such animals and plants as “the burrowing owl, Quino checkerspot butterfly, Tecate cypress, snowy plover, two species of fairy shrimp, and the Otay Mesa mint.”

“We are disappointed with the ruling but pleased that the court recognized the Trump administration does not have unlimited power and that the administration’s authority to build a barrier along our border is subject to judicial review,” said a spokeswoman for Becerra’s office.

The spokeswoman added, “California will not be deterred in its efforts to hold the Trump administration accountable under the law and we will continue to protect the people and resources of our state.”

The White House did not provide comment to The Hill when asked for a reaction to the surprising ruling from the Ninth Circuit.

Should the environmentalist groups wish to continue fighting this losing legal battle, they can request an “en banc” hearing of the entire bench of Ninth Circuit judges, followed by an appeal to the Supreme Court, if the full Ninth Circuit upholds the panel’s ruling.

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