SIERRA VISTA — A federal court ruled Wednesday that the emergency powers President Donald Trump used to divert $3.6 billion in Department of Defense funding for military projects was unlawful.
According to a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which filed the suit on behalf of the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. stated: “The Court cannot blind itself to the plain reality presented in this case: the border barrier projects Defendants now assert are ‘necessary to support the use of the armed forces’ are the very same projects Defendants sought — and failed — to build under DHS’s civilian authority, because Congress would not appropriate the requested funds.”
The lawsuit challenged what the ACLU claimed was “Trump’s abuse of emergency powers to build a border wall using funds Congress explicitly denied.”
Dror Ladin, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, stated, “This ruling confirms that the president has no authority to raid military construction funds for his xenophobic wall. By putting an end to the president’s power grab, this ruling protects our democracy’s separation of powers, the environment, and border communities.”
The district court has temporarily stayed a block on further construction given the ongoing appeals process in another part of the case before the Ninth Circuit.
“We will be back before the Ninth Circuit very soon,” added Ladin.
Dan Millis, Sierra Club borderlands campaign coordinator, explained the ruling, “It says the President shouldn’t build his wall on the backs of our veterans and active duty military. It’s a great decision for the environment, our border communities and for the sanctity of the processes of the government.”
This ruling does not stop any of the construction of the wall along the border in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument or the San Bernardino Valley, he added.
That reprieve is expected soon as the ruling on another portion of the case is pending, Millis said.
Vicki B. Gaubeca, director of the SBCC wrote: “We welcome this decision against Trump’s blatant attempt to sidestep Congress. Trump’s senseless wall is destroying our natural habitats, endangering our communities, and eroding the quality of life of the 15 million people who live in the southern border region. The southern border is and always has been a place of encounter, opportunity and hope. We need a responsible border governance approach that begins with respecting the checks and balances in this country.”
U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick stated in a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “I am not supportive of a border wall or barrier along our southern border. However, I would like to work together to ensure that the construction that is happening is done thoughtfully and with care to protect border communities and the environment. Steps must be taken to mitigate the environmental damage that will inevitably come from a construction project like this.”
She continued, “Constituents who live and work near the U.S.–Mexico border have shared alarming accounts about the construction activity currently occurring near the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge in Cochise County, Arizona. The ecosystem in and around the refuge is extremely fragile, and steps must be taken to mitigate the environmental damage that will inevitably come from a construction project like this.”
Borderland campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity Laiken Jordahl wrote, “The Trump administration is steamrolling border communities, destroying protected public lands and wildlife and wasting precious groundwater to build his senseless wall. Border Patrol has refused to hold a single public meeting or even tell us how much groundwater they’re using. Each drop of water extracted from ancient aquifers is being stolen from future generations, all for a border wall most Arizonans don’t want. Border communities deserve better than this lawlessness. We demand answers.”
A ruling by the Fifth District Court in Texas Tuesday does stop any construction on the Barry Goldwater Range in Yuma County and parts of Texas, other parts of Arizona and California, said Millis.
The court blocked the use of military funding and “the imminent construction of the wall” and also called the President’s sidestepping of the will of Congress, which provided $1.375 billion in the budget for Trump’s border wall construction, illegal.
The White House reacted to the Texas court ruling with a press release stating, “A federal statute authorizes the use of the funds by empowering the Secretary of Defense to ‘undertake military construction projects’ to support the Armed Forces during a national emergency.”
“The district court issued a nationwide injunction on the theory that building the wall is causing ‘reputational’ harm and economic disruption to a Texas county and an advocacy group in that county. But the court’s injunction sweeps far broader than that and blocks multiple projects that are hundreds of miles away and have nothing to do with these plaintiffs.
“The Supreme Court 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.”