Environmentalists have asked a judge to stop a plan to replace existing vehicle barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, arguing the Trump administration unlawfully waived dozens of laws as part of the project that will ultimately damage wildlife habitat.
The injunction request filed Tuesday seeks to halt work on 68 miles (109 kilometers) of replacement barriers at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and San Pedro National Conservation Area before the start of construction on Aug. 21.
“We’re under the gun to stop construction,” said Jean Su, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the three groups challenging the waivers issued as part of President Donald Trump’s border wall efforts in Arizona.
The barriers currently at the three sites block vehicles from passing but still allow wildlife to move through. Environmental groups said the 30-foot (9.1-meter) replacement bollards that the Trump administration plans to erect would prevent the cross-border migration of wildlife.
The replacement barriers would negatively affect the movement of bighorn sheep and the endangered Sonoran pronghorn at Organ Pipe and Cabeza Prieta, the environmental groups argued.
The environmental groups also argued a 2005 law that gave the Homeland Security secretary broad authority to waive laws to expedite constructing sections of border wall had expired, so the waivers for the Arizona project should be thrown out.
A phone call and email seeking comment from the Department of Homeland Security on the injunction request weren’t immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.
The injunction request was made in federal court in Washington, D.C., as part of a lawsuit challenging the waivers granted for the Arizona portion of Trump’s border wall efforts. Similar challenges to such waivers have been filed in California, New Mexico and Texas.
The California lawsuit failed when a judge rejected arguments that the administration had overreached by waiving environmental and other reviews. The challenges in New Mexico and Texas remain alive.
If the preliminary injunction request for the Arizona sites is granted, border wall construction would be blocked until a judge rules on the merits of the challenge, the groups said.
In late July, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the Trump administration to tap military funds to build sections of a border wall.
Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud