President Donald Trump’s biggest campaign promise, to build a wall along the United States-Mexico border, looks less likely to ever happen thanks to Friday court rulings in two separate cases. Unless, of course, Mexico suddenly decides to pay for it.
The US District Court for Northern California made permanent a preliminary decision to block Trump’s attempt to take $2.5 billion in federal defense funding to build parts of the wall in El Centro, California, and New Mexico. In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. said that Trump’s lawyers provided “no new evidence or argument for why the court should depart from its prior decision, and it will not.”
The suit was originally filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who said of the decisions: “These rulings critically stop President Trump’s illegal money grab to divert $2.5 billion of unauthorized funding for his pet project. All President Trump has succeeded in building is a constitutional crisis, threatening immediate harm to our state. President Trump said he didn’t have to do this and that he would be unsuccessful in court. Today we proved that statement true.”
“We’ll appeal it right away,” Trump said, responding to the news at a press conference following the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan on Saturday. “It’s very unfair. We’re building a lot of wall. But we had a ruling just yesterday, late, from a judge in the 9th Circuit. There’s no reason that that should have happened.”
Justifying his decision, the judge said that “the item for which funds are requested has been denied by Congress” and that Trump trying to bypass Congress’s control over federal appropriations “does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic.” He also rejected the administration’s argument that the funds to build the wall were for “unforeseen military requirements,” adding that to use the funds for that purpose “would raise serious constitutional questions.”
Judge Gilliam also issued a ruling against Trump in a separate, similar case filed by the ACLU on behalf of Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition. The Sierra Club contended that building the wall would cause “irreparable harm” to their “recreational and aesthetic interests” such as hiking and birdwatching and other activities.
“The proposed wall goes through both border communities in which the Sierra Club has members and across public lands that are of enormous public value,” Sanjay Narayan, a lawyer for the Sierra Club, told NPR. “The wall, if it’s constructed, will be enormously disruptive to those communities and the wildlife on the lands.”
Trump had planned for construction on the wall to begin Monday. But now, those plans will have to be put on hold, perhaps permanently. The case will now go to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which could hear the case as early as next week.