Federal judge blocks Trump from using Defense funds for parts of border wall

Recently-installed "Bollard" style fencing is pictured on the US-Mexico border near Santa Teresa, New Mexico, on April 30, 2019. (Photo by Paul Ratje / AFP) (Photo credit should read PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – A federal judge on Friday night blocked President Donald Trump from tapping into Defense Department funds to build parts of his US-Mexico border wall.

In a 56-page ruling, Judge Haywood Gilliam, a Barack Obama appointee in the Northern District of California, blocked the administration from moving forward with specific projects in Texas and Arizona, saying he couldn’t disburse the funds without congressional approval.

Although Friday’s ruling does not prevent the Trump administration from using funds from other sources to build the projects, it’s a setback for the President on a signature agenda item that has frequently been thwarted by Democrats in Congress.

“The position that when Congress declines the Executive’s request to appropriate funds, the Executive nonetheless may simply find a way to spend those funds ‘without Congress’ does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic,” Gilliam writes.

He added, “because the Court has found that Plaintiffs are likely to show that Defendants’ actions exceeded their statutory authority, and that irreparable harm will result from those actions, a preliminary injunction must issue pending a resolution of the merits of the case.”

The decision comes more than three months after Trump declared a national emergency to divert billions of dollars from the Pentagon for the construction of his border wall. The proclamation prompted a slew of lawsuits.

The lawsuit that prompted Friday’s ruling, which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the plaintiffs — Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition — argues that the declaration was “made solely out of disagreement with Congress’s decision about the proper funding level, location, and timetable for constructing a border wall.” It also alleges that the construction of the wall would negatively impact the environment and communities along the border.

The ACLU hailed Gilliam’s decision.

“This order is a win for our system of checks and balances, the rule of law, and border communities. The court blocked all the wall projects currently slated for immediate construction. If the administration begins illegally diverting additional military funds, we’ll be back in court to block that as well,” Dror Ladin, an ACLU staff attorney, said in a statement.

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