The legal fight over Defense Department funds stems from Trump’s national emergency declaration on the U.S.-Mexico border last year. Trump extended the statement last February, even as border arrests began to decrease.
“The Executive Branch lacked independent constitutional authority to authorize the transfer of funds,” wrote Circuit Chief Judge Sidney Thomas for the majority. “The panel noted that the Allocations Clause of the United States Constitution exclusively grants purse power to Congress. The panel argued that the transfer of funds violated the Allocations Clause and was therefore illegal.”
While Friday’s ruling is a victory for environmental groups and states that challenge the use of military funds, a Supreme Court suspension, issued last year that allows the funds to be used, remains in place for now.
The American Civil Liberties Union applauded the ruling on Friday. “President Trump’s xenophobic wall is already leveling protected lands, desecrating cultural sites and destroying wildlife,” said Dror Ladin, attorney for the ACLU National Security Project. “The damage that has been done cannot be undone, but we will return to the Supreme Court to finally stop this destructive wall.”
Three years after his presidency, Trump has faced a series of legal challenges over his border wall and his attempt to bolster the effort with additional funds from other government accounts.
Still, the president has touted the progress of his border wall. The administration billed Trump’s first trip to the border in 2020 this week as a celebration of the 200-mile completion of a new wall system.
“My administration has done more than any other administration in history to secure our southern border. Our border has never been more secure,” he told officials. Management has said it intends to build 450 miles by the end of the year.
The decision allowed Defense Department money to be spent now as the court battle unfolded over whether the government had the authority to divert funds that were not appropriate for the wall. The Supreme Court voted 5-4, along ideological lines, to allow the funds to be used while the court’s appeals continue.
The Justice and Homeland Security departments did not immediately respond to a request for comment.