Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 1, 2017

Contact:  Brian Segee, (805) 750-8852,

Trump Administration Ignores Laws to Rush Border Wall Construction

Department of Homeland Security Waives Environmental Laws

WASHINGTON— The Department of Homeland Security today announced it will exempt itself from environmental and other laws to rush construction of the border wall and prototypes near San Diego, Calif., endangering critical habitat and ignoring public input.

The waiver would speed construction of replacement walls, 30-foot-high prototypes, roads, lighting and other infrastructure without any analysis of the environmental impacts. The area of south San Diego is surrounded by hundreds of communities and contains critical habitat for several endangered species.

"Trump wants to scare people into letting him ignore the law and endanger wildlife and people," said Brian Segee, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Trump's wall is a divisive symbol of fear and hatred, and it does real harm to the landscape and communities."

In January President Trump issued an executive order directing Homeland Security to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration claims it has authority to waive environmental, natural resource and land-management laws under several laws passed by Congress.

In June the Center expanded its lawsuit against the proposed border wall prototype construction in San Diego to include the replacement of 14 miles of existing border wall. The lawsuit challenges the Trump administration's failure to perform any environmental analysis or release any information about the project.

This region of coastal San Diego County contains wetlands, streams and other rare wildlife habitats, as well as critical habitat for numerous endangered species, including the Quino checkerspot butterfly and coastal California gnatcatcher.

"This isn't just a wall they're in a rush to build. It's roads, lighting and all of the infrastructure that comes with it. All of this without any environmental review or public input. It's a travesty and it has to be stopped," Segee said. "We believe the waiver is unconstitutional, and we're confident the courts will agree."

A recent study by the Center identified more than 90 endangered or threatened species that would be harmed by proposed wall construction along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

The Center and U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, first sued the Trump administration in May over the proposed border wall and other border-security measures, calling on Homeland Security to conduct an in-depth investigation of overall border-security environmental impacts.

In July the Center filed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests seeking public records connected to Trump's plans to build border walls through protected national wildlife refuges.

Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations. The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

More press releases