16 states sue Trump over plan to fund border wall

A woman holding up a sign during a protest in Texas against US President Donald Trump after he invoked emergency powers last Friday to help build the wall that was his signature 2016 campaign promise. The complaint by the 16 states seeks a preliminar
A woman holding up a sign during a protest in Texas against US President Donald Trump after he invoked emergency powers last Friday to help build the wall that was his signature 2016 campaign promise. The complaint by the 16 states seeks a preliminary injunction that would prevent him from acting on his declaration while the case plays out in the courts.PHOTO: DPA

California-led alliance says US leader misusing emergency declaration to divert funds meant for defence

WASHINGTON • A coalition of 16 US states led by California sued President Donald Trump and top members of his administration to block his decision to declare a national emergency to obtain funds for building a wall along the United States-Mexico border.

The lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California came after Mr Trump invoked emergency powers last Friday to help build the wall that was his signature 2016 campaign promise.

Judges at the same San Francisco-based court have ruled against an array of other Trump administration policies, including on immigration and the environment.

Mr Trump's order would allow him to spend money that Congress appropriated for other purposes. Congress declined to fulfil his request for US$5.7 billion (S$7.7 billion) to help build the wall this year.

"Today, on Presidents Day, we take President Trump to court to block his misuse of presidential power," California Attorney-General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

"We're suing President Trump to stop him from unilaterally robbing taxpayer funds lawfully set aside by Congress for the people of our states. For most of us, the office of the presidency is not a place for theatre," added Mr Becerra, a Democrat.

The White House declined to comment on the 56-page complaint by states with Democratic governors - except for one, Maryland - which seeks a preliminary injunction that would prevent Mr Trump from acting on his emergency declaration while the case plays out in the courts.

 
 

In a Budget deal passed by Congress to avert a second government shutdown, nearly US$1.4 billion was allocated towards border fencing. Mr Trump's emergency order would give him an additional US$6.7 billion beyond what lawmakers authorised.

Three Texas landowners and an environmental group filed the first lawsuit against his move last Friday, saying it violated the Constitution and would infringe on their property rights.

  • PLAINTIFF STATES

  • The 16 states that filed a federal lawsuit challenging MrTrump's national emergency declaration:

    • California

    • Colorado

    • Connecticut

    • Delaware

    • Hawaii

    • Illinois

    • Maine

    • Maryland

    • Minnesota

    • Nevada

    • New Jersey

    • New Mexico

    • New York

    • Oregon

    • Virginia

    • Michigan

The legal challenges could slow Mr Trump's efforts to build the wall, which he says is needed to curb illegal immigration and drug trafficking. The lawsuits could end up at the Conservative-leaning US Supreme Court.

Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia and Michigan joined California in the lawsuit.

The states said Mr Trump's order would cause them to lose millions of dollars in federal funding for national guard units dealing with counter-drug activities and redirection of funds from authorised military construction projects would damage their economies.

Mr Becerra said in TV interviews that the lawsuit would use Mr Trump's own words against him as evidence that there was no national emergency to declare.

Mr Trump said last Friday he did not need to make the emergency declaration but wanted to speed up the process of building the wall. That comment could undercut the government's legal argument.

"By the President's own admission, an emergency declaration is not necessary," the states said in the lawsuit. "The federal government's own data prove there is no national emergency at the southern border that warrants construction of a wall."

The complaint noted data issued by Mr Trump's administration that also refuted the notion of an emergency.

"Customs and Border Protection data show that unlawful entries are near 45-year lows," the complaint said.

"The State Department recognises there is a lack of credible evidence that terrorists are using the southern border to enter the United States. Federal data confirm that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2019, with the headline '16 states sue Trump over plan to fund border wall'. Print Edition | Subscribe