Trump’s border wall plan hits snag as congressman backs environmental suit

Cactus on the border

A cactus is seen next to the metal fence along the border between Mexico and the Arizona desert. A US congressman is calling for an environmental impact assessment before any border wall is built. Photograph: Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images

A US congressman and environmental group have filed the first lawsuit targeting Donald Trump’s plan to build a 30 ft wall on the US-Mexico border.

The suit, brought by Congressman Raúl M Grijalva of Arizona and the Center for Biological Diversity in the US district court for Arizona, seeks to require the government to undertake a comprehensive environmental impact analysis before beginning construction.

Such a review would probably take several years to complete, delaying indefinitely the fulfillment of one of Trump’s signature campaign promises.

“It will take a significant amount of time to thoroughly analyze [the impacts of the wall], and that’s the point,” said Randy Serraglio, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“What we learned about the border wall in the past 10 years is that it’s hugely expensive, it doesn’t work, and it does a tremendous amount of damage,” Serraglio said. “The people in the United States have the right to know what the damage is going to be, what it’s going to cost, and whether it’s going to be effective. Those are questions the Trump administration is not interested in answering.”

The lawsuit invokes the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires environmental review of major federal programs.

The Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection, which are named as defendants, declined to comment on pending litigation.

Trump began his presidential campaign in June 2015 with the promise of a border wall to keep out Mexican immigrants, whom he characterized as “criminals” and “rapists”. In the first week of his administration, he signed an executive order calling for homeland security to “begin immediate construction” of the wall.

Homeland Security has since begun a bidding process for contractors to build prototypes for the multibillion-dollar project. Still, a lack of interest from major construction firms and a lack of funding from Congress may mean that the proposal never moves beyond a border wall beauty pageant expected to take place in San Diego this summer.

 

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