Lawyers representing a group of several states and NGOs today urged the Justice Department to decide soon on the legality of the funds earmarked by Donald Trump’s government to build a border wall with Mexico, a project that is already underway.
Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Dr. Ladin asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case to make a decision “as fast as it can” to prevent construction from advancing further in the event of a favorable ruling.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the lawyer accused the government of rushing the construction of the wall to gain time before a possible ruling that the funds are being used for that purpose illegally and assured that, if so, the ACLU will ask that what has been built so far be demolished.
“We are going against the clock to prevent irreversible damage to the Constitution, the environment and border communities from Trump’s xenophobic obsession with the wall. If the courts allow the president to get away with this abuse of power, others will follow without being able to prevent it,” Ladin said.
Last July, in a tight vote, the five conservative Supreme Court justices imposed themselves on the four progressives and gave a temporary go-ahead to the government to use $2.5 billion from the Pentagon’s coffers to renew the border wall with Mexico.
This item was initially intended for the fight against drug trafficking and is part of the $6.6 billion that Trump diverted for the construction of the wall under the national emergency that he declared in February on the southern border.
It is precisely the diversion of funds that the plaintiffs allege is illegal, considering that the Executive cannot modify in this way a decision taken by the legislature, since Congress was responsible for approving the federal budget.
The Supreme Court’s decision, however, is not final, and only overturns the prohibition that the government use the 2.5 billion for the construction of the wall as imposed by a lower court, but does not assess the legality of the deviation.
Thus, although for the time being the Executive can proceed with the construction – as it is doing – remains pending the final decision taken by the Ninth Circuit Appeals, which could find illegal the deviation of the budget and therefore force to stop the works.
It is foreseeable, especially given the July ruling, that if the Ninth Circuit rules against the interests of the White House, the White House will take the case to the Supreme Court for a final decision.