Court Battles

Appeals court blocks further construction on Trump border wall

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ruled that President Trump’s use of emergency powers to allocate millions of dollars in funding for the construction of a southern border wall was illegal, the latest blow to the Trump administration’s effort to limit immigration. 

In the 2-1 decision, the court upheld a December 2019 district court summary judgment in favor of a request from the advocacy groups the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition against Defense Secretary Mark Esper, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and “all persons acting under their direction … from using military construction funds appropriated for other purposes to build a border wall.”

The previous judgment was also made in response to a separate filing from nine U.S. states, including California, Colorado and New York, to stop the construction of the border wall. 

According to court records, following the partial government shutdown in 2019, Trump invoked his authority under the National Emergencies Act to declare that “a national emergency exists at the southern border of the United States.” This came after the president announced he was “not happy” with the $1.375 billion “for the construction of primary pedestrian fencing … in the Rio Grande Valley Sector” in Texas given by Congress. 

Trump had initially requested $5.7 billion from Congress for border wall construction. 

According to the ruling, Trump’s national emergency proclamation also declared “that this emergency requires use of the Armed Forces” because although he “could do the wall over a longer period of time” by going through Congress, he would “rather do it much faster.” 

Esper then announced that $3.6 billion reserved for military construction projects would be diverted to fund eleven specific border wall construction projects in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Altogether, the projects include 175 miles of border wall, according to court documents. 

The appeals court said that while the district court had previously agreed to suspend an official order stopping construction pending the government’s appeal, Friday’s ruling lifts that stay, thus ordering the immediate halting of border wall construction. 

In a press release issued Saturday, Gloria Smith, managing attorney at the Sierra Club, called the appeals court decision “monumental for border communities, wildlife and lands.” 

“We should be protecting communities, our democracy, and the environment, not tearing these things apart as Trump was doing,” Smith said in the statement. “We rise with border communities to stop this administration from further inflicting its relentless agenda and will continue fighting illegal wall construction at all levels.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

Friday’s ruling follows a D.C. appeals court decision last month in a case brought forth by House Democrats. The judges ruled that the Trump administration “cut the House out of its constitutionally indispensable legislative role” of handling appropriations.

The D.C. court added at the time that a decision in favor of the administration “would fundamentally alter the separation of powers by allowing the Executive Branch to spend any funds the Senate is on board with, even if the House withheld its authorizations.” 

In a separate 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in July, the court ruled against Trump’s border wall financing move. A divided three-judge panel found that the administration had violated the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution, which gives Congress the exclusive power of the purse.

However, a 5-4 ruling from the Supreme Court last month declined to let the 9th Circuit’s decision take effect.

Tags American immigration border wall construction California Chad Wolf Colorado Donald Trump Mark Esper New York Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Supreme Court Trump Administration White House
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