Environmental groups vow to fight on after Supreme Court okays Trump’s border wall

Activists and scientists say the wall would be an ecological catastrophe.

A section of border wall put in place by We Build The Wall Inc. stands on June 26, 2019 in Sunland Park, New Mexico. CREDIT: Mario Tama/Getty Images
A section of border wall put in place by We Build The Wall Inc. stands on June 26, 2019 in Sunland Park, New Mexico. CREDIT: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Sierra Club and other environmental advocates are vowing to press on with their fight against President Donald Trump’s efforts to use military funds for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border following a Supreme Court ruling allowing the project to go forward.

In an unsigned, paragraph-long decision, the Supreme Court in a 5 to 4 ruling said that Trump could use $2.5 billion in Pentagon funding for the wall in parts of California, New Mexico, and Arizona. That move stayed a prior lower court decision, that ruled in favor of the Sierra Club and other plaintiffs, barring the administration from using the funds for the wall.

Trump greeted Friday’s ruling on Twitter, with a post reading: “Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!”

This means that construction on the wall can officially begin. But pending legal challenges from environmental groups will continue to move forward in lower courts.


Trump’s border wall plan has long been a source of ire for environmental groups and scientists, many of whom say the wall will be ecologically devastating and have severe implications for wildlife and biodiversity, in addition to research. But organizations that have opposed the wall indicated they plan to continue fighting the effort.

“This is not over,” pledged Dror Ladin, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). That organization is working with the Sierra Club, which sued the government earlier this year over the wall’s environmental implications, among others.

“We’ve seen the destruction that the ever-expanding border wall has inflicted,” said Sierra Club managing attorney Gloria Smith in a statement. Smith said that her organization “will continue to fight this wall and Trump’s agenda through and through.”

Following the Friday ruling, however, groups acknowledged that the decision marks a major setback in efforts to fight the wall. But Ladin asserted that the legal battles will continue.

“We will be asking the federal appeals court to expedite the ongoing appeals proceeding to halt the irreversible and imminent damage from Trump’s border wall,” he said, arguing that “border communities, the environment, and our Constitution’s separation of powers will be permanently harmed” if the project proceeds.

Advocates say the risks to border communities and the environment posed by the wall are wide-ranging. In 2018, the Trump administration waived 28 environmental and health protections to build the border wall in Texas, arguing that the importance of the project outweighed other concerns. But more than 2,500 scientists from 43 countries have warned that the wall will “threaten some of the continent’s most biologically diverse regions,” with severe implications for science as well as for many species.


One treasured butterfly sanctuary on the Texas border has also repeatedly warned that the animals it protects could be irreparably harmed by the wall. And in a comment submitted earlier this month to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said that the Arizona-Mexico portion of the wall would threaten the San Pedro River, the last free-flowing river in the Southwest.

“The construction of 63 miles of border walls in the locations proposed would cause severe and irreversible damage to the environment and harm the culture, commerce, and quality of life for communities and residents located near the project areas,” the organization warned.