Trump blocked from using emergency funds to build Mexico border wall sections by federal judge

A billion dollars set to be spent on barrier is barred - but that still leaves another $5bn

Colin Drury
Saturday 25 May 2019 09:30 BST
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Donald Trump declares national emergency to release funds for border wall

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Louise Thomas

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A billion dollars earmarked for Donald Trump’s long-promised wall on the US border with Mexico must not be spent on the project, a federal judge has ruled.

The order blocked the Department of Defence funds being spent on the barrier because it had not been specifically authorised by congress.

It followed a legal challenge to the outlay by California and 19 other states.

But the ruling did not cover another $5.1bn which is still free to be used by Mr Trump after he declared drugs and crimes entering the US via the Mexican border a national emergency.

In his ruling halting the $1bn, US district judge Haywood Gilliam Jr wrote: “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 the fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our republic."

Separately, Judge Gilliam denied a preliminary injunction against the border wall sought by a coalition of 16 states – but did say they could move forward with their case.

Mr Trump has said the wall is needed to address a crisis of on the border, and promised to stem illegal immigration arriving in the country there.

But the new ruling is just the latest in a series of frustrations as he attempts to have his election promise of the barrier turned into reality.

In February, after a protracted political battle and a long government shutdown, congress approved just $1.38bn for construction of "primary pedestrian fencing" along the border in south east Texas – well short of the demanded 2,000 mile wall.

To obtain the additional money, Mr Trump declared a national emergency and his administration said it planned to divert $601m from a Treasury Department forfeiture fund, $2.5bn earmarked for Department of Defence counter-narcotics programmes and $3.6bn from military construction projects.

The House of Representatives, more than a dozen states and two advocacy groups asked Judge Gilliam in California to block the transfer of funds to prevent the wall construction.

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They argued the administration should not use funds congress has specifically denied or construct a barrier that was not authorised, nor could the administration work outside the geographic area identified by congress.

"This is a win for our system of checks and balances, the rule of law, and border communities," the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted after the ruling was made.

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