Lawsuit using environmental law against Biden’s immigration policies can proceed: judge


A federal judge in the District of Columbia has not dismissed a lawsuit that relies on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to challenge the Biden administration’s actions on immigration, marking an unprecedented success, although still precocious, for the use of environmental law against illegal immigration.

Trump-appointed District Court Judge Trevor McFadden ruled August 11 (pdf) that his court had jurisdiction to hear the case.

The lawsuit pits immigration reformers, environmentalists and ranchers against the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the State Department.

“I think people would support efforts to stop ignoring the massive environmental consequences of immigration,” said Julie Axelrod, director of litigation for the Center for Immigration Studies, in an Aug. 30 interview with The Epoch Times.

Axelrod filed an amended complaint (pdf) on behalf of the plaintiffs. A previous NEPA lawsuit from the Center was dismissed for lack of quality, first by the Southern District of California and then by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

One of the plaintiffs in DC’s lawsuit, cattle rancher Chance Smith, lives near Douglas, Ariz., in an area his family has inhabited since the 19th century.

Trump’s move to Biden ‘has increased the number of cruisers he personally sees crossing the ranch to eight or nine times [what] that was before,” the complaint states.

Smith says these riders degrade the land, leaving behind trash or even buried drugs and weapons.

“He [Smith] must bring a gun at all times, even if he would rather not. However, he knows he is under threat of trouble from cartel members at any time when the border is not under law enforcement control,” the suit continues.

NEPA and the border

Signed into law by former President Richard Nixon, NEPA marked an important step in protecting nature from damage by the federal government.

“If NEPA is to apply to any government policy, it should apply to federal policies that induce population growth,” argues the Center’s complaint.

The lawsuit cites the direct effects of unchecked illegal immigration at the border, as experienced by Smith and others.

It also refers to the wider negative impacts of immigration-induced population growth, including urban sprawl, loss of agricultural land, reduced biodiversity and pressure on water resources.

The government’s motion to dismiss (pdf) the lawsuit asserts that the plaintiffs do not have standing. He says the complaint rests on “highly speculative and widespread grievances related to the effects of population growth,” adding that none of the alleged harms can be linked to changes made by the Biden administration.

He also argues that many of the actions challenged by the lawsuit are within the agency’s discretion.

McFadden ruled that Smith, one of the plaintiffs, had standing, saying the injuries he claims are not overly speculative “if they can be proven true or false later in litigation.”

He dismissed only two of the plaintiffs’ nine requests.

The remaining claims include challenges to the State Department’s actions on refugee resettlement as well as other policy changes regarding refugee detention, fines, and related actions.

Notably, McFadden’s decision did not dismiss a claim against Biden’s border wall policies. This distinguishes the prosecution from a recent ruling on Arizona’s NEPA case (pdf), which found that the Trump administration’s NEPA waiver for the border wall could help justify waiving the NEPA analysis of Arizona. a halt to the construction of the border wall.

“It’s not necessarily a bad thing that not all judges see things the same way,” Axelrod said.

She thinks plaintiffs and defendants will both likely file motions for summary judgment.

“The case will continue to litigate on the merits of whether the Biden administration’s actions on immigration had significant environmental impacts, and whether those impacts were felt by the plaintiffs in this case,” Axelrod wrote. in an August 18 article about the decision.

Environmental concerns over mass immigration are nothing new

The use of environmental law against changes in immigration policy is relatively new. Yet environmentalists have long worried about the potential impact of rapid population growth, including growth driven by massive immigration.

NEPA itself dates back to 1970, a time when overpopulation was high on the list of concerns for many environmentalists.

Indeed, as the Center’s lawsuit points out, the original Congressional Statement on National Environmental Policy calls population growth one of the “deep influences” leading to the need for a new law.

This statement also states that the federal government is responsible for “[achieving] a balance between population and resource use that will allow for a high standard of living and a broad sharing of the conveniences of life.

NEPA was passed barely half a decade after an even more transformative piece of legislation: the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.

“The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. This will not relax admission standards. It won’t cause American workers to lose their jobs,” former Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), a leading supporter of the bill, testified before an immigration subcommittee.

Yet, over the following decades, mass immigration, both legal and illegal, drove the majority of population growth in the United States.

Demographers expect this trend to intensify. Pew Research predicts that future immigrants and their descendants will be responsible for 88% of population growth in the United States between 2015 and 2065.

The Center for Immigration Studies has an even higher estimate. They believe that immigration will drive 95% of population growth by 2060.

In recent decades, however, immigration has become a third rail for environmentalists.

As late as 1989, the Sierra Club argued that “[i]Immigration to the United States should not exceed that which will achieve population stabilization in the United States”

Mega-donor David Gelbaum may have changed the tone of the Sierra Club.

In the mid-1990s, the businessman told the group’s manager that “if they ever went out against immigration, they would never get a dollar from me.”

He then donated over $100 million to the organization.

The group change prompted some Sierrans to form a dissident organization, Sierrans for US Population Stabilization (SUSPS), which opposes uncontrolled immigration as well as racial bigotry targeting immigrant groups.

A SUSPS insider told The Epoch Times that several founding members were unaware of any efforts by the Sierra Club to use NEPA or other environmental laws against illegal immigration in previous decades.

The Sierra Club and the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment before press time.

The Justice and State Departments declined to comment on the lawsuit.



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