A federal judge in California has issued a temporary injunction blocking the use of Defense Department funds to build parts of President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Oakland-based Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. of the Northern District of California issued the order Friday in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition. Construction of sections of the wall affected by the ruling could have begun as soon as Saturday.
The injunction will give the judge time to thoroughly review the issues in the case. It is certain to be appealed.
The decision blocks the $1 billion transfer of Pentagon “counterdrug” funds so they can be used for wall construction. But it only limits construction in certain border areas in Texas and Arizona, and it does not prevent the Trump administration from seeking other funding sources for those projects.
Congress appropriated only $1.375 billion for border wall construction limited to a section in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. So Trump declared an emergency in a bid to obtain federal funds without congressional approval.
“The position that when Congress declines the Executive’s request to appropriate funds, the Executive nonetheless may simply find a way to spend those funds ‘without Congress’ does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic,” the judge wrote.
Gilliam said the administration’s plan to use Pentagon drug-fighting funds to finance the wall appeared to be unconstitutional because that money is only meant to be used for “unforeseen” needs.
“Defendants’ argument that the need for the requested border barrier construction funding was ‘unforeseen’ cannot logically be squared with the Administration’s multiple requests for funding for exactly that purpose dating back to at least early 2018,” Gilliam wrote.
The order may jeopardize an additional $1.5 billion of the $8.1 billion the Trump administration plans to use to build the wall.
The lawsuit argued that Trump’s emergency declaration to obtain Pentagon funds for the wall was “made solely out of disagreement with Congress’ decision about the proper funding level, location, and timetable for constructing a border wall.” It also argued that the wall would negatively impact the environment and communities along the border.
Gilliam noted that the administration’s delay in using funds from the previous year undercut claims about the urgency of the situation at the border.
This is a win for our system of checks and balances, the rule of law, and border communities.The court blocked all wall projects currently slated for immediate construction.If the Trump administration begins illegally diverting additional funds, we'll be back in court.
— ACLU (@ACLU) May 25, 2019
There was no immediate response from the White House.