October 2, 2023
Court orders trial on whether border ranchers have standing
WASHINGTON—On Saturday, the District of Columbia federal district court ruled that a key portion of environmental claims by border ranchers against Biden border policies were meritorious, and so denied the Biden Administration’s motion for summary judgment on those claims. The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) had filed a brief in the court supporting plaintiffs.
Specifically, U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden ruled that, in terminating the Remain in Mexico policy—in which asylum seekers were required to wait in Mexico, not the United States, for their asylum hearings—and halting border wall construction, the Biden Administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because it failed to make any assessment of these actions’ impact on the environment.
The judge, however, found that there was an issue of fact on whether these Biden policies caused the increased flood of illegal aliens over the rancher plaintiffs’ land, and thus whether the trash, violence, and chaos the border-crossers generated on it, which sharply decreased the ranchers’ enjoyment of their environment, gave the ranchers standing to sue. So Judge McFadden ordered a trial so he could evaluate testimony on this issue of causation.
If Judge McFadden finds that these Biden policies contributed to the surge in illegal crossings over the ranchers’ land that happened following these policies, his ruling on the merits will kick in, and the court will strike down these policies and order the administration to assess their environmental impact. IRLI developed the immigration-related NEPA cause of action and filed the first immigration-related NEPA case in 2016, representing the largest assortment of plaintiffs ever assembled for a NEPA action, that is, ranchers, conservation groups, professional associations, and public interest groups from multiple states.
“We are pleased that the court found that these claims under NEPA have merit,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “And we hope that, at trial, the court will conclude what is obvious: that Biden’s border stand-down has caused the explosion in illegal crossings that followed it, and thus vacate and remand these actions for environmental assessment, however awkward it may be for the administration to have to perform it.”
The case is Massachusetts Coalition for Immigration Reform v. DHS, No. 1:20-cv-3438 (D.D.C.).
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