Monday, June 15, 2009

Court turns down Texas counties over border fence

Associated Press
June 15, 2009

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday refused to get involved in local Texas governments' fight against hundreds of miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The court rejected a challenge by El Paso and other counties to a lower court ruling dismissing a lawsuit against Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The local governments have argued that Napolitano's predecessor, Michael Chertoff, improperly waived 37 federal laws that could have slowed or blocked construction of fencing along the border that is intended to deter illegal immigrants.

El Paso County Attorney Jose Rodriguez said Monday that the local governments knew the case was something of a long shot — the high court previously turned away a legal challenge to the Homeland Security secretary's authority to speed up fence construction — but believed the lengthy court fight was worthwhile.

"Unfortunately the court didn't indicate why they denied ... so we'll never know, but we gave it our best shot," Rodriguez said. "And this litigation raised a lot of public awareness at the local, state and even national level about these issues about border security."

As the suit worked its way through the court system, most of the fencing in question was built.

Federal authorities have completed about 630 miles of the promised 670-miles-long vehicle and pedestrian fencing. Much of the unfinished portion is in south Texas, where residents and local governments have also been staunch opponents of the fencing authorized by Congress to help secure the border and slow illegal immigration. Congress gave Chertoff the power to waive the federal laws in 2005.

The future of much of the unfinished section of fencing is in limbo while a judge sorts through issues related to private property in the fence's path.

The case is County of El Paso v. Napolitano, 08-751.

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