WASHINGTON – Mexican-American Judge Gonzalo Curiel on Tuesday ruled in favor of the Donald Trump administration in a lawsuit attempting to block construction of the president’s much-touted and controversial wall along the US-Mexico border.
The federal magistrate, whose impartiality Trump in a past case had called into question because of his Mexican heritage, ruled against the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed regarding the possibility that the US government might issue environmental waivers to accelerate construction of the wall.
Curiel ruled that the US government has the authority to waive a number of environmental protection regulations and laws that would have to be cleared away before construction – which Congress has not yet approved or provided funding for – could begin.
The judge said that no serious constitutional doubts exist about the use of environmental waivers by the government, adding that the court did not – and could not – consider whether the government’s underlying decisions to build frontier barriers were politically wise or prudent.
Trump had harshly attacked the Indiana-born Curiel during the 2016 presidential campaign, claiming that because of his Mexican heritage the judge could be biased against the mogul in the fraud case he presided over involving so-called Trump University, a legal matter that ultimately was settled out of court for $25 million.
This new case regarding the wall examined three similar lawsuits presented by the California government, as well as by environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club of San Diego.
The debate focused on whether the US government exceeded its authority by trying to waive environmental laws to build the wall along the border, although US authorities argued that the administration was acting within its constitutional rights.
The plaintiffs, however, argued that the federal government was violating the Constitution and state law by ignoring environmental rules and regulations and not considering environmental impact studies that found that moving forward with the wall could cause irreparable harm to dozens of species and to the environment in the border zone.
Meanwhile, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said after learning of the ruling that his state continues to believe that the Trump administration is ignoring laws it does not like to revive the wall project.
Becerra said that California is evaluating all its options and is prepared to do what is necessary to protect state residents – along with California’s values and its economy – from federal excesses, adding that a “medieval” wall along the border does not belong in the 21st century.