Judge bars Trump from using USD2.5B to build border wall

OAKLAND, California (AP) – A federal judge on Friday prohibited United States (US) President Donald Trump from tapping USD2.5 billion in military funding to build high-priority segments of his prized border wall in California, Arizona and New Mexico.

Judge Haywood S Gilliam, Jr in Oakland acted in two lawsuits filed by California and by activists who contended that the money transfer was unlawful and that building the wall would pose environmental threats.

“All President Trump has succeeded in building is a constitutional crisis, threatening immediate harm to our state,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who led a 20-state coalition of attorneys general in one lawsuit.

Speaking yesterday in Japan, Trump said his administration will immediately appeal the decision.

The decisions are in line with Gilliam’s ruling last month that blocked work from beginning on two of the highest-priority projects – one spanning 46 miles (74 kilometres) in New Mexico and another covering five miles in Yuma, Arizona.

File photo shows a Honduran asylum seeker taken into custody by a US Border Patrol agent after the group crossed the US border wall into San Diego, California, seen from Tijuana, Mexico. – AP

But the fight is far from over. The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to take up the same issue of using military money next week.

At issue is President Donald Trump’s February declaration of a national emergency so that he could divert USD6.7 billion from military and other sources to begin construction of the wall, which could have begun as early as Monday. Trump declared the emergency after losing a fight with the Democratic-led House that led to a 35-day government shutdown.

The president identified USD3.6 billion from military construction funds, USD2.5 billion from Defence Department counterdrug activities and USD600 million from the Treasury Department’s asset forfeiture fund.

The judge on Friday didn’t rule on funding from the military construction and Treasury budgets.

In the second suit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, the judge determined that the use of the USD2.5 billion for two sectors of the wall was unlawful, although he rejected environmental arguments that wall construction would threaten species such as bighorn sheep.