Judge bars Trump from building border wall with military funds

Border wall
Construction crews in March replace a section of the primary wall separating San Diego, right, and Tijuana.
(Associated Press)

A U.S. judge barred President Trump from using $3.6 billion in military construction funds to pay for a wall along the Mexico border.

Tuesday’s order follows an October ruling by U.S. District Judge David Briones in El Paso, in which he concluded that Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to redirect Defense Department appropriations to a wall project that Congress specifically refused to pay for was illegal. The government is appealing the October ruling.

The decision by Briones could hinder the ability of lawmakers to agree on a fiscal 2020 spending bill package this week where border wall funding is once again a key stumbling block and a shutdown looms Dec. 20. The White House may double down on its request for more direct wall funding if the transfer option is barred.


Briones found that because the administration’s actions “are unlawful and the people’s representatives — Congress — declined to augment the border wall project as defendants attempt, the public interest would be served by halting them.”

The judge said he isn’t blocking the president from using $2.5 billion in Pentagon funds earmarked for a counter-drug program, consistent with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in July that let the administration move forward with building 100 miles of border fencing.

For the first time, U.S. officials have begun pushing even asylum-seeking families who are not from Guatemala to that country, the Los Angeles Times has learned. The Trump administration had said a new policy effectively ending asylum at the U.S. southern border and removing asylum seekers to Central America would initially only be applied to single adults.

Dec. 10, 2019

“The president’s emergency proclamation was a blatant attempt to grab power from Congress,” said Kristy Parker, a lawyer for Protect Democracy, which represents the county of El Paso and a human rights group that brought the legal challenge. “Today’s order affirms that the president is not a king and that our courts are willing to check him when he oversteps his bounds.”

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco is weighing separate challenges to the president’s wall funding plan brought by a coalition of states and the Sierra Club.