A federal judge in Texas ruled against President Donald Trump’s effort to repurpose $3.6 billion in military construction funds to build a border wall, issuing a permanent injunction to block the move on the basis that the executive branch does not have the constitutional authority to redirect money appropriated by Congress. The ruling by District Court Judge David Briones, a Bill Clinton appointee, makes permanent a temporary injunction granted in October and expands the scope nationally.
“The ruling marked the first instance of a local jurisdiction successfully suing to block construction of Trump’s border barrier,” the Washington Post reports. “El Paso County, one of the two plaintiffs in the suit, had argued that the new barrier was unwanted by the community and would inflict permanent harm on its reputation as a welcoming, cross-border place.” With the 2020 election less than a year away, Trump’s divisive campaign promise to build a wall—no matter how absurd or helpful—along the U.S. border with Mexico has reignited. So far, Trump has not built a big, beautiful wall, but he has rebuilt sections of the existing barrier while extending other portions of the structure. The latest court ruling wipes away about a third of the $10 billion that the Trump administration had budgeted to kick-start a preelection push to build 450 miles of fencing in the coming year.
The Trump administration had tried to shoehorn the wall funding into the president’s sphere of executive authority by declaring it a national emergency, but the court ruled that the proclamation violated congressional restrictions set on the funding. The plaintiffs in the case argued that the idea that there was an “emergency” on the border was essentially bogus. The White House has also targeted military counternarcotics funds as a means to secure resources for wall construction. A federal judge in California issued an injunction blocking the administration’s narcotics approach earlier this year, but the Supreme Court stayed the injunction, allowing the administration to proceed.