Federal judge says Trump violated the law to build his border wall

Federal judge says Trump violated the law to build his border wall
President Donald J. Trump stands before a section of border fencing during his visit to the border area of Otay Mesa, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, a neighborhood along the Mexican border in San Diego, Calif. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Federal Judge David Briones ruled Friday that President Donald Trump violated the law in trying to seize funds to build his border wall without congressional authorization.


Plaintiffs El Paso County and Border Network for Human Rights, a nonprofit group, had standing to bring their case against the federal government, the judge found, and Trump's emergency proclamation attempting to obtain the funds was "unlawful." He has asked the plaintiffs to submit a proposal for an injunction on the government while the case proceeds, which the administration will then respond to.

"We are thrilled with the judge's decision that the president cannot take money Congress appropriated for other purposes and spend it for purposes Congress specifically rejected," the Niskanen Center said about the ruling on Twitter. "Niskanen has been a part of a team of lawyers working pro bono to represent El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights in a suit against President Trump’s emergency declaration."

The ruling noted that an appropriations bill that Trump himself signed into law in February said:

None of the funds made available in this or any other appropriations Act may be used to increase, eliminate, or reduce funding for a program, project, or activity as proposed in the President's budget request for a fiscal year until such proposed change is subsequently enacted in an appropriation Act, or unless such change is made pursuant to the reprogramming or transfer provisions of this or any other appropriations Act.

But when Trump signed that law, he also signed a proclamation that declared an emergency at the southern border, which he used to justify taking military funds to pay for a border wall. However, the judge found that the proclamation was itself unlawful because it violated the provision of law quoted above. The judge notes that the border wall was is clearly a "project," and the border wall itself was a part of the president's proposed budget. The language of the law thus makes it clear that it should thus not receive an increase in funding by presidential fiat.

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