ABC News is reporting, “Two federal courts in two days have issued nationwide orders blocking the Trump administration’s use of $3.6 billion in military construction funds to build a wall along the border of the United States and Mexico, declaring that repurposing those funds would be ‘unlawful.'”
In a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Obama appointee Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, ruled against the Trump administration and indicated that the the attempt to build the wall without Congressional approval was a notable factor in his decision.
“[The] border barrier projects [the Trump administration] now assert are ‘necessary to support the use of the armed forces’ are the very same projects [the administration] sought — and failed — to build under [Homeland Security’s] civilian authority, because Congress would not appropriate the requested funds,” Gilliam wrote in his ruling released Wednesday.
“This ruling confirms that the president has no authority to raid military construction funds for his xenophobic wall,” Dror Ladin, an attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement. “By putting an end to the president’s power grab, this ruling protects our democracy’s separation of powers, the environment, and border communities.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the administration would appeal the ruling, which she said would unfairly block “multiple projects that are hundreds of miles away and have nothing to do with these plaintiffs.”
“The Supreme Court,” she added in a statement, “has already stayed one erroneous injunction blocking the use of a different statutory authority to build the border wall and the Administration plans to immediately appeal this incorrect decision, too.”
It’s the second such ruling, coming just after the government of El Paso County in Texas and a nonprofit filed a lawsuit to stop the wall, earlier this week, arguing that the construction caused irreparable damage to their community. District Court Judge David Briones issued a permanent injunction, blocking the administration’s efforts to divert $3.6 billion from 127 military construction projects to 11 projects that would establish 175 miles of new or reconstructed wall along the border with Mexico, disrupting the administration’s plans to complete 450 miles of new barriers by the end of 2020.
The ruling said the plaintiffs had indeed demonstrated “irreparable harm” and that the “balance of the equities and public interest weigh in their favor.”
“It’s a great victory for Congress’s constitutional power of the purse, and a reminder that presidents are NOT kings,” Democratic Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California said in a response on Twitter.
So far the Trump administration has built just over 86 miles of new barriers. Most of that work has been renovating and replacing outdated designs, according to Customs and Border Protection.
Last July, the Supreme Court handed Trump a big win on the issue by greenlighting $2.5 billion to be used for military counter-drug funding for the border wall temporarily — a signal that it would ultimately side with the administration on the issue of shifting money around for what Trump says is a “national emergency.”
Judge David Briones insists that his decision doesn’t conflict with the SCOTUS decision, because his case focused on military construction funds, not counterdrug money.
“The president’s emergency proclamation was a blatant attempt to grab power from Congress,” said Kristy Parker, a lawyer for Protect Democracy, an advocacy group that provided legal representation in the case. “This is a huge win for democracy and the rule of law,” Parker added.
Government lawyers are appealing the decision, the case should go to the Supreme Court.