The legal battle against Defense Department funding began last year with Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump extended the announcement last February as border arrests began to decline.
“The executive branch lacked independent constitutional authority to approve the transfer of funds,” wrote Chief Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas for the majority. “The panel noted that the Applications Clause of the U.S. Constitution authorizes the power of the purse to be passed exclusively in Congress. The panel stated that the transfer of funds violated this allocation clause, and was therefore illegal.”
Friday’s ruling is a victory for environmental groups and states challenging the use of military funds, a Supreme Court stay that was issued last year, which allows the use of funds, is still in effect.
The American Civil Liberties Union applauded Friday’s ruling. “President Trump’s xenophobic wall is already leveling protected land, insulting cultural sites and destroying wildlife,” said Attorney Darar Ladin, an employee of the ACLU’s National Protection Project. “The damage that has been done cannot be undone, but we will eventually return to the Supreme Court to stop this destructive wall.”
Three years after he became president, Trump has faced many legal challenges in encouraging this effort with additional funding from his border wall and other government accounts.
Nevertheless, the president has spoken of the progress of his border wall. The administration billed Trump’s first 2020 trip to the border this week as a celebration of the completion of the new Wall System 200 miles.
“Our administration has done more than any other administration in history to secure our southern border. Our border has never been more secure than this,” he told officials. The administration said it plans to build 450 miles by the end of the year.
The decision allowed the Department of Defense to spend the money now, when the court battle began over whether the government had the power to remove funds not allocated to the walls. The Supreme Court voted 5-4 along the ideological line to allow the use of funds during the court’s appeal.
The Justice and Homeland Security Departments did not immediately respond to a request for comment.