Members of a US-bound migrant caravan stand on a road after federal police briefly blocked their way outside the town of Arriaga, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Hundreds of Mexican federal officers carrying plastic shields had blocked the caravan from advancing toward the United States, after several thousand of the migrants turned down the chance to apply for refugee status and obtain a Mexican offer of benefits. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
In response to two lawsuits, U.S. District Court Judge Haywood Gilliam (Northern District of California) ruled on Friday that the Trump administration could not use military funds to pay for the construction of a border wall.
The first lawsuit had been brought by a group which includes the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Sierra Club, and the Southern Border Communities Coalition.
Following a losing battle with House Democrats to secure funding for the wall, President Trump declared a national emergency and diverted $6.7 billion of mostly military funds to pay for the wall. Specifically, $3.6 billion was to come from military construction funds, $2.5 billion from Defense Department counterdrug activities and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s asset forfeiture fund.
Gilliam’s ruling bars Trump from tapping the $2.5 billion from Defense Department counterdrug activities and has stopped construction at various sites in New Mexico, California, Arizona and Texas. Gilliam, obviously, is an Obama appointee.
Trump administration attorneys maintained that it was lawful to use the military funds because the national emergency was “unforeseen.” Additionally, they “claimed that if they are unable to award the federal dollars to contractors by the end of the fiscal year, they may lose the funding.”
Gilliam’s ruling stated:
The administration lawyers present no new evidence or argument for why the court should depart from its prior decision, and it will not…
Because no new factual or legal arguments persuade the court that its analysis in the preliminary injunction order was wrong, [the groups’] likelihood of success on the merits has ripened into actual success.
Gilliam also wrote that the plaintiffs would “suffer irreparable harm” because it “will harm their ability to recreate in and otherwise enjoy public land along the border.”
He added that he does not “minimize the administration’s interest in border security,” but stated that “the balance of hardships and public interest favors is in favor of the groups opposing the wall.”
According to The Hill, Gilliam did not rule on whether or not the “administration was in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.”
ACLU attorney Dror Ladin put out a statement which said, “Congress was clear in denying funds for Trump’s xenophobic obsession with a wasteful, harmful wall. This decision upholds the basic principle that the president has no power to spend taxpayer money without Congress’ approval.”
Sierra attorney Gloria Smith, issued a statement which said they
Applaud the court’s decision to protect our Constitution, communities, and the environment today.
We’ve seen the damage that the ever-expanding border wall has inflicted on communities and the environment for decades. Walls divide neighborhoods, worsen dangerous flooding, destroy lands and wildlife, and waste resources that should instead be used on the infrastructure these communities truly need.
The second lawsuit was brought on behalf of the states of New Mexico and California, which claimed that construction “would damage the environment and infringe upon” those states’ rights. Gilliam agreed with them, “but determined that they did not reach the bar needed for him to issue a permanent injunction in that case.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who obviously was happy with the rulings, issued a statement as well:
The rulings critically stop President Trump’s illegal money grab to divert $2.5 billion of unauthorized funding for his pet project.
All President Trump has succeeded in building is a constitutional crisis, threatening immediate harm to our state. President Trump said he didn’t have to do this and that he would be unsuccessful in court. Today we proved that statement true.
President Trump, understandably, was angry with Gillian’s ruling and has vowed to appeal it. At a G20 press conference, Trump called the decision a “disgrace” and said “We’re immediately appealing it and we think we’ll win the appeal. There was no reason that that should have happened.”