Groups ask judge to halt border wall construction

Several groups filed a motion Thursday asking a judge to impose a preliminary injunction to halt the Trump administration’s construction of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border under the scope of President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE’s national emergency declaration.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the motion in federal court in California, as part of an ongoing lawsuit brought forward on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, challenging Trump’s national emergency declaration.

The groups argue that the national emergency declaration is unconstitutional because only Congress has the proper authority to appropriate funds.

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The groups claim in the filing that building the wall with funds set aside for other purposes could cause “irreparable damage,” leading to their request for the national injunction.

“Neither a declaration of emergency nor the statutes that Defendants have invoked permit the President to disregard Congress’s enacted appropriations legislation. Nor have Defendants even attempted to comply with the environmental protections Congress required in the National Environmental Policy Act,” the lawsuit reads.

“An injunction is necessary to prevent Defendants’ disregard for the statutes enacted by a coordinate branch of government, and their attempt to usurp its powers.”

Trump in recent days has threatened to shut down the southern border.

But he pivoted his stance on Thursday, saying that he will give Mexico a year to address issues like drug trafficking before he takes steps like shutting down the border or slapping Mexico with auto tariffs.

The ACLU’s lead attorney on the case Dror Ladin told The Hill that he is concerned about both the emergency declaration’s constitutionality and the impact the wall will have on his clients.

“It is certainly a civil liberties issue when the president claims the power to unilaterally do things like take money that is unauthorized by Congress or declare a bogus emergency to grab a bunch of extra power that the Constitution doesn’t give the president,” he said.

He added that the group hopes a judge will grant the injunction before construction on the wall begins.

The Southern Border Communities Coalition is a group of 60 organizations that try to improve the lives of people who live at the border. The organization’s director said in a statement that a wall will hurt the region.

“The walls and hyper-militarization that President Trump continues to demand by threatening a border shutdown will only harm the region, and the nation as a whole,” said Southern Border Communities Coalition Director Vicki B. Gaubeca, “The lengths that Trump is willing to go to prop up his sham national emergency are tearing apart the binational and multi-cultural fabric of our region.”

A Sierra Club attorney also said the wall could have a devastating environmental impact.  

"Trump’s border wall would cause irreversible damage to desert ecosystems and sabotage wildlife protection efforts,” managing attorney Gloria Smith said in the statement.

“This is yet another illegal and dangerous effort by the president to further his anti-immigrant and anti-environment agenda.”

The Hill has reached out to the White House, Defense Department and Treasury Department for comment.

The Department of Homeland Security referred The Hill to its attorneys at the Department of Justice. A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.

Thursday’s filing is part of a lawsuit filed in February to block the president’s border wall, arguing that his emergency declaration used to divert funding to the wall is unconstitutional.

“The president is using a bogus declaration of a non-existent emergency to undermine our constitutional system of checks and balances, in the process deeply harming communities living and working at the border,” Cecillia Wang, ACLU's deputy legal director, said in a statement at the time.

“We’re filing suit to stop the administration from moving forward with this patently illegal attempt to steal taxpayer money for a border wall that Congress, security experts, and Americans have said is unnecessary and harmful.”

Trump in February declared the national emergency, after Congress refused to provide him with his requested amount of funding for the border wall, triggering a 35 day-long partial government shutdown.

Trump said at the time that he “didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster,” which his critics have pointed to as evidence that the emergency declaration is illegitimate.

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrFederal prosecutors interviewed multiple FBI officials for Russia probe review: report Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe Mulvaney ties withheld Ukraine aid to political probe sought by Trump MORE also said at the time of Trump’s order that the declaration is valid under federal law.

And Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump confirms Rick Perry to step down as Energy secretary Trump says acting Homeland Security chief McAleenan will step down Activists to demonstrate at ICE headquarters after Cameroonian immigrant dies in custody MORE and other officials have claimed there is currently a crisis at the border, and that they lack enough resources to handle the influx of migrants attempting to enter the country.