Border communities begin legal challenges to Trump’s emergency declaration, wall construction

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EL PASO —Within hours of President Trump signing a national emergency declaration on Friday, county authorities here filed a lawsuit to block his border wall gambit, beginning what probably will be a parade to courthouses across the country as jurisdictions, organizations and individuals try to challenge his efforts to bypass Congress.

El Paso County joined three nonprofit organizations in filing suit in federal court in Washington on Friday, arguing that the declaration violates the nation’s bedrock concept of separation of powers and that it will unnecessarily damage this border community.

El Paso County Commissioner David Stout said his community has been tainted by “the negative rhetoric and the negative narrative, the racialized stigma that is attached to this community, especially by the president of this country.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Friday said his state also plans to file a lawsuit challenging Trump’s emergency declaration; numerous other lawsuits are expected in the coming weeks, and Trump said Friday that he fully anticipates court action.

Numerous residents and organizations along the border already have challenged Trump administration efforts to survey land for the wall, and many others have vowed to fight any eminent domain claims the federal government might make to secure private property for the barriers. Such court fights can take many years.

Several wildlife refuges and parks had thought they were spared wall construction when Congress approved a compromise bill Thursday, and several communities in South Texas felt protected by the bill because it requires the government to “confer and seek to reach mutual agreement” regarding the barriers in their jurisdictions if the $1.375 billion in congressional wall funding would be used for construction. But should Trump use separate funding under an emergency declaration, it is possible the government could ignore the instructions from Congress — and many here worry that could mean the wall will come without those consultations.

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