Attorney General Bonta Secures Settlement Regarding Unlawful Construction of Trump Border Wall

Monday, July 17, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

OAKLAND – Leading a coalition of 18 states, California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced a settlement of lawsuits over the unlawful construction of border wall projects that occurred during the Trump Administration. California-led coalitions of states sued the Trump Administration on two occasions — in 2019 and 2020 — alleging that it was illegally diverting taxpayer funds authorized for other purposes to construct a border wall in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California. As part of today’s settlement, the Biden Administration agrees to cease construction of border barriers with the challenged funds and take several important measures to remediate the environmental harm caused by the construction, including providing funding for the protection of thousands of acres of crucial sensitive habitat in California. The Biden Administration also confirms in the settlement agreement that it has restored funding for military construction projects in the plaintiff states. The Sierra Club and Southern Borders Communities Coalition, nonprofit organizations that also sued the Trump Administration, are settling their claims for these actions as well. 

“The Trump Border Wall is officially a relic of the past, which is where it belongs,” said Attorney General Bonta. “With environmental mitigation projects coming online to protect our sensitive ecosystem along the U.S.-Mexico border and the confirmation of over $427 million in funding restored for military construction projects, today’s settlement ushers in a new beginning. I am grateful to the Biden Administration for working with us in good faith and making this announcement possible.” 

The California Attorney General’s Office secured two District Court judgments declaring President Donald J. Trump’s diversion of funds for border wall construction unlawful and enjoining further construction of the barriers. The Ninth Circuit affirmed both judgments. On a 5-4 vote, in 2019 the United States Supreme Court allowed the construction to proceed while the litigation was pending without ruling on the legality of the transfers or construction. Upon taking office, President Joe Biden issued a Proclamation that ceased all construction of the border wall proposed by the Trump Administration. In response, the Supreme Court sent the cases back to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Among the settlement terms are the following:

  • The Department of Homeland Security will provide $25 million to California that may be used for one of two purposes: to help fund an environmental nonprofit’s purchase of the Otay Village 14 property in San Diego County, an environmentally sensitive set of parcels totaling over 1,200 acres that are located near the U.S.-Mexico border and valued at approximately $60 million (with the environmental non-profit securing the remaining $35 million of the purchase price from other sources), or if the environmental nonprofit cannot secure the additional funds needed for the Otay Village 14 property acquisition, to fund Phase 3 environmental mitigation projects, including consideration of land acquisitions for conservation purposes in the Proctor Valley/Lower Otay Lakes area of San Diego County.
  • The Department of Homeland Security will install small and large wildlife passages in the border barrier system for several endangered species. If exigent circumstances arise or border security operations demand it, the Department of Homeland Security may install gates to enable those passages to be closed.
  • The Department of Homeland Security will provide $1.1 million to fund programs that monitor several federally endangered species, including the Peninsular Bighorn Sheep, Sonoran Desert Pronghorn, Mexican Gray Wolf, ocelot, and jaguar. 
  • The parties confirm that $427,296,000 in funding for military construction projects in the plaintiff states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Wisconsin has been restored. Exact amounts per state can be found on page 7 of the settlement agreement.

Joining Attorney General Bonta in announcing today’s settlement are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

A copy of the settlement agreement can be found here.

# # #