The same federal judge who in May temporarily blocked President Donald Trump's administration from spending $1 billion of military funds on U.S.-Mexico border wall construction expanded that ban to a permanent injunction on Friday.
U.S. Circuit Judge Haywood Gilliam also added additional border wall segments to the list of those that are not permitted to move forward under the current funding scheme.
This final order prevents the White House from making available for border wall construction a total of $2.5 billion of U.S. Department of Defense funds. The first shift of $1 billion came from DOD counter-narcotics accounts, and the next $1.5 billion was sourced from savings in programs like the Afghan Security Forces Fund; one that pays for the destruction of lethal chemical agents and munitions; and the military retirement system.
Gilliam also denied the Trump administration's motion for a temporary stay pending appeal but did certify his judgment for an immediate appeal, which the White House filed this past weekend.
In his ruling, Gilliam said the likelihood that plaintiffs Sierra Club and others would prevail — a sentiment expressed in Gilliam's temporary ruling in May — had "ripened into actual success."
Gilliam said that border wall construction was not a military-related unforeseen circumstance; therefore, it did not meet the requirements under the national emergency at the southern U.S. border that the president declared earlier this year. In that ruling, Gilliam also said that transferring money for those purposes would "likely raise constitutional questions." Gilliam reaffirmed that the Trump administration exceeded its authority by attempting an end run around congressional funding rules and processes.
However, Gilliam did hand the administration one win in the form of deciding that the many Department of Homeland Security waivers of environmental rules and other regulations — which the agency said were necessary in order to expedite wall construction — were not out of bounds.
This practice has drawn the ire of environmentalists as the administration has declared that it does not have to follow regulations related to cultural finds, clean water, clean air and wildlife protection.
If Congress and activists continue to make it difficult for the president to achieve his border wall construction goals, this could spur his supporters to raise even more money for private wall construction, as they have done in New Mexico.
We Build the Wall has raised almost $25 million for construction of the border wall and has actually built between one-half mile to 1 mile on private property along the border. After a few run-ins with local building officials that stopped construction for a brief time and another dispute with an international water agency, the finished wall's gate will remain open during the day and be locked at night.
Meanwhile, work recently began on one stretch of the border wall, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement. On Friday, the CBP and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began panel installation for approximately 11 miles of new border wall system in place of dilapidated and outdated designs in Calexico, California. This project will include the construction of 30 foot tall steel bollards and technology improvements.
The construction start for this project was announced earlier this month, along with the new border wall project in Tecate, California. Construction for both of these projects, which total approximately 15 miles, is anticipated to continue into 2020.
Funding for the project came from the CBP’s Fiscal Year 2018 appropriation, not the National Emergency Declaration nor Department of Defense funds.