A federal judge has blocked the Trump administration from diverting $3.6 billion in military funds toward the construction of the border wall.
Judge David Briones of the Western District of Texas issued a permanent nationwide injunction (pdf) on Tuesday, ruling that the administration’s move to redirect the funds is “unlawful.” The administration is expected to appeal the decision.
The ruling is part of a lawsuit brought by El Paso County, Texas, and immigrant rights group Border Network for Human Rights on Oct. 11. They claimed that Trump’s national emergency declaration on Feb. 15, violated the 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) approved by Congress (pdf), and specifically its Section 739, which prohibits funds covered under the statute from being used for any project not specifically listed in the legislation.
Briones, an appointee of former president Bill Clinton, wrote in the Tuesday ruling, “After due consideration, the Court is of the opinion that a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction shall be granted in Plaintiffs’ favor.”
“It is finally ordered” that officials from the Trump administration are “permanently enjoined” from using the funds beyond the $1,375 billion in the 2019 CAA for border wall construction, Briones wrote.
“Defendants do not have compelling reasons justifying an administrative stay of this decision as they have requested, though they are free to pursue a stay pending an appeal before the Fifth Circuit,” Briones added.
The judge previously ruled on Oct. 11 that the plaintiffs were able to bring the case forward. Specifically, he directed the plaintiffs to file a proposed preliminary injunction within 10 days of the decision, and let the administration respond to the proposal within five days.
Trump on Feb. 15 declared a national emergency that enabled $3.6 billion of Department of Defense funds, originally slated for military construction projects, to be redirected toward building some 175 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Defense Secretary Mark Esper authorized the redirecting of the funds in September.
The $3.6 billion were beyond the $1.375 billion that Congress approved for border wall construction in its spending bill passed on Feb. 14. But the $1.375 billion was far short of the $5.7 billion Trump demanded in 2018.
Trump wrote on Feb. 15 in his declaration that the “current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency.” He added that the southern border “is a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics.”
“Recent years have seen sharp increases in the number of family units entering and seeking entry to the United States and an inability to provide detention space for many of these aliens while their removal proceedings are pending,” Trump wrote.
Briones noted that his latest ruling would not apply to the funds that did not require a national emergency declaration to be reallocated. Trump in February reallocated $3.1 billion from other departments toward border wall construction—$2.5 billion from Defense Department counterdrug activities and $601 million from the Treasury Department’s asset forfeiture fund.