A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on Friday, partially blocking President Trump's plan to fund a border wall with Mexico using money from the Defense Department.
California U.S. District Court Judge Haywood Gilliam, who was appointed by former President Obama, issued the order, which does not fully halt construction but would limit additional border fencing to specific areas. It would also block the transfer of about $1 billion in Pentagon funds from various projects to pay for the construction of a wall.
Trump made an emergency declaration earlier this year to circumvent Congress and reallocate funding from the Defense Department to begin work on the wall.
The judge halted the Trump administration "from taking any action to construct a border barrier" using the reallocated Defense Department funds in parts of Arizona and Texas identified as Yuma Sector Project 1 and El Paso Sector Project 1.
Gillam argued "irreparable harm" would result if the administration were allowed to proceed while the case is pending.
"Because the Court has found that Plaintiffs are likely to show that Defendants’ actions exceeded their statutory authority, and that irreparable harm will result from those actions, a preliminary injunction must issue pending a resolution of the merits of the case," he said in court.
Gillam cited the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches outlined in the Constitution, particularly Congress's power of the purse, in making that determination.
“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 fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic,” he wrote.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which had asked the judge for the injunction in February on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, celebrated its legal victory Friday.
"This order is a win for our system of checks and balances, the rule of law, and border communities. The court blocked all the wall projects currently slated for immediate construction. If the administration begins illegally diverting additional military funds, we'll be back in court to block that as well," Dror Ladin, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement.
The Sierra Club's managing attorney, Gloria Smith, applauded the decision in a statement.
"Walls divide neighborhoods, worsen dangerous flooding, destroy lands and wildlife, and waste resources that should instead be used on the infrastructure these communities truly need," she said. "The Sierra Club and our members are thrilled the courts put a rightful check on Trump’s abuse of emergency powers."
The groups had argued in their lawsuit that Trump's emergency declaration used to divert funding to the wall is unconstitutional.
“An injunction is necessary to prevent Defendants’ disregard for the statutes enacted by a coordinate branch of government, and their attempt to usurp its powers,” they argued when asking for the injunction.
A wall along the U.S.-Mexico border was one of Trump's campaign promises, and he initially pledged Mexico would pay for it. Funding for the proposed wall has since been a subject of debate among lawmakers and the administration.
Trump declared a national emergency in February to reallocate Defense Department funding to the border wall after Congress refused to provide him with his requested amount of funding for the project.
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