by Kent Paterson, Frontera NorteSur
In rejecting an injunction, Judge Montalvo cited, among other reasons, the 1996 immigration reform and other laws that gave broad powers to the Attorney General and later the Department of Homeland Security.
In a major setback to critics of the Department of Homeland Security’s border wall, a federal judge in Texas has denied a request to temporarily halt construction of the wall, which is fast underway in the El Paso area.
Quietly issuing his ruling on Friday, Aug. 29, just before the start of the Labor Day weekend, U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo turned down a request by the County of El Paso and other plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction.
Last June, the plaintiffs filed the request as part of a lawsuit that challenged the authority of the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Michael Chertoff to waive dozens of federal environmental and other laws in order to pave the way for a new border fence.
In rejecting an injunction, Judge Montalvo cited, among other reasons, the 1996 immigration reform and other laws that gave broad powers to the Attorney General and later the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the Department of Homeland Security’s contentions that undocumented immigrants cause environmental damages by creating new roads and trails, by leaving behind trash and by jeopardizing wetlands with invasive parasites and diseases.
“After carefully considering the parties’ arguments, the Court concludes Plaintiffs fail to successfully develop their claim that preserving the waived laws outweighs the public’s interest in securing its borders.." Judge Montalvo wrote.
Despite the adverse ruling, the lawsuit continues in El Paso federal court.
“The case is not over yet,” said El Paso County Attorney Jose Rodriguez in a statement. “This lawsuit involves an unprecedented delegation of authority by the Congress to the executive branch, because it allows DHS Secretary Chertoff to disregard long-standing federal laws that provide protection and benefits to the public and the environment.”
Elhiu Dominguez, press affairs officer for the county attorney’s office, said plaintiffs are weighing their options. Any appeal in the case will have to be made directly to the Supreme Court, Dominguez told Frontera NorteSur, but only after a ruling is made in the entire case. The danger, he added, is that the issue could become moot if the Department of Homeland Security completes the border wall by the end of the year as planned. “If the judge doesn’t schedule a hearing before then, that will be the risk,” Dominguez said.
In addition to the County of El Paso, other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the City of El Paso, El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Frontera Audobon Society, Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, and Mark Clark.
Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico
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