Federal Judge Blocks Construction on Sections of Trump's Border Wall

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on May 30, 2019

President Donald Trump has made no secret of his desire to build additional sections of a border wall between the United States and Mexico. But his words may have come back to haunt him.

A federal judge used Trump's repeated public statements on immigration to undermine his claim for emergency funding for the border structure. "Defendants' argument that the need for the requested border barrier construction funding was 'unforeseen'," according to U.S. District Court Judge Haywood Gilliam, "cannot logically be squared with the Administration's multiple requests for funding for exactly that purpose dating back to at least early 2018." Therefore, Judge Gilliam issued a temporary injunction against using emergency funds for border wall construction.

About Purse Strings, not Policy

Judge Gilliam was careful from the outset to frame his ruling in non-political terms:

It is important at the outset for the Court to make clear what this case is, and is not, about. The case is not about whether the challenged border barrier construction plan is wise or unwise. It is not about whether the plan is the right or wrong policy response to existing conditions at the southern border of the United States. These policy questions are the subject of extensive, and often intense, differences of opinion, and this Court cannot and does not express any view as to them. Instead, this case presents strictly legal questions regarding whether the proposed plan for funding border barrier construction exceeds the Executive Branch's lawful authority under the Constitution and a number of statutes duly enacted by Congress.

And, in the court's view, Congress has "absolute" control over federal spending, "even when that control may frustrate the desires of the Executive Branch regarding initiatives it views as important."

Stop and Go

The Sierra Club sued Donald Trump to block construction of at least two additional parts of the border wall, one section spanning 46 miles in New Mexico and another covering 5 miles in Yuma, Arizona. And while Judge Gilliam's ruling puts that construction on hold for now, the injunction is only temporary until the case is decided on its merits.

Additionally, the Trump administration has already appealed the ruling, claiming the injunction "will irreparably harm the Government (and the public) by prohibiting the Government from taking critical steps to stop the flow of illegal drugs from entering the country through the southern border." So the issue now goes to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has not been kind to Trump's immigration agenda thus far.

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