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2 Federal Courts Issue Decisions to Block Use Of Pentagon Funds For President Trump’s Border Wall

Block Use Of Pentagon Funds For Trump’s border wall

Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.

While President Trump has announced many anti-immigration policies as President, probably his most well-known anti-immigration policy is to construct a wall at the United States southern border.  Yet, despite President Trump’s frequent calls for a border wall, various Federal courts have opposed certain actions by the Trump administration designed to help build the border wall. As further evidence of the statement in the preceding sentence, 2 Federal courts have recently issued decisions to block the use of Pentagon funds for President Trump’s border wall.

On December 10, in the case of El Paso County, Texas v. Trump, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 212769 (W.D. Tex. 2019), United States District Court for the Western District of Texas Judge David Briones issued a permanent injunction blocking the attempted transfer of $3.6 billion in military construction funds to build President Trump’s border wall. 

The December 10 decision follows a ruling by Judge Briones from October 11 that the use of military funds for President Trump’s border wall was “unlawful”; the December 10 decision was primarily focused on what should be the appropriate relief in the case. Judge Briones ruled, “Because Plaintiffs satisfy the four Winter factors, the Court disagrees with the Defendants and issues a permanent injunction against the agency head Defendants’ use of additional [Section] 2808 funds to fund border barrier construction. . . . This Court has already concluded that Plaintiffs’ reputational harm is significant. . . . While the reputational harm alone is enough to satisfy the irreparable injury requirement, Plaintiffs also have demonstrated economic harm. . . . [T]he diversion of resources from Fort Bliss can hardly be described as generalized – it is directly tied to the unlawful deferral of resources to border wall funding in violation of the CAA [the 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act]. . . . Losing funds that has been appropriated for use at Fort Bliss ‘creates the imminent prospect of economic harm to El Paso County.’ . . . And in addition to the economic and reputational harm of El Paso County, BNHR [Border Network for Human Rights] has also suffered irreparable harm. . . . More than being forced to undertake a different form of border policy advocacy, BNHR’s resources have been drained and diverted, as illustrated by the cancelation of a signature event and additional expenditures to counteract Defendants’ unlawful actions that differ from its routine expenses. . . . [B]ecause Defendants’ actions are unlawful and the people’s representatives – Congress – declined to augment the border wall budget as Defendants attempt, the public interest would be served by halting them. . . . Because Plaintiffs have demonstrated irreparable harm, an inability of traditional remedies at law to rectify that harm, and the balance of the equities and public interest weigh in their favor, they are entitled to a permanent injunction against Defendants’ use of [Section] 2808 funds for border barrier construction”.

In addition, on December 11, in the case of California v. Trump, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 213774 (N.D. Cal. 2019), United States District Court for the Northern District of California Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. also held in favor of a permanent injunction to block the attempted transfer of $3.6 billion in military construction funds to build President Trump’s border wall, but stayed the permanent injunction pending appeal.  Judge Gilliam Jr. ruled, “[T]he critical question before the Court is whether the eleven proposed projects are being ‘carried out with respect to a military installation.’ . . . Defendants contend that ‘military installation’ is ‘inclusive of [any] activities under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of a military department.’ . . . The Court finds several flaws with this expansive interpretation. 

First, Defendants’ interpretation requires the Court to disregard the plain language of the statute. . . . Second, Defendants’ interpretation would grant them essentially boundless authority to reallocate military construction funds to build anything they want, anywhere they want, provided they first obtain jurisdiction over the land where the construction will occur. . . . Third, Defendants’ interpretation contravenes clear congressional intent to limit – not expand – executive emergency powers. . . .

Put simply, the Court does not find that Section 2808 was intended to be used to resolve policy disputes with Congress or to provide the Executive Branch with unchecked power to transform the responsibilities assigned by law to a civilian agency into military ones by reclassifying large swaths of the southern border as ‘military installations.’ . . . [T]he Court finds that Defendants have not satisfied the mandatory conditions set by Congress in Section 2808, and that they thus are not authorized to redirect military construction funds to the eleven border barrier projects they have identified. . . . Because the Court finds Defendants’ proposed use of funds under Section 2808 unlawful, the Court finds that the balance of hardships and public interest favor Plaintiffs, and counsel in favor of a permanent injunction”.

The Trump administration is expected to appeal both of the above cases.

The above decisions show how litigation can be used to safeguard immigration rights.  Immigrants need to retain skilled immigration lawyers, such as the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, which has had years of success and experience in representing immigration clients, to prevail in litigation.  If you need help with any immigration matter, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at taher@kameli.com or 312-233-1000, for legal support.