US judges back Trump’s wall

30 Jul 19

Judges have given Donald Trump’s plan to build a controversial wall along the US border with Mexico a shot in the arm.

The Supreme Court blocked a ruling that had prevented the president from spending $2.5bn in redirected military funds on the barrier, thereby temporarily unfreezing this money.

Supporters of building the wall to block migrants, which was a key promise of Trump during his 2016 election campaign, welcomed the decision. It was in turn heavily criticised by opponents.

The court, which has an in-built conservative majority, voted 5-4 to block a previous ruling by a federal judge in California that had barred Trump from spending the $2.5bn originally allocated by Congress to other defence purposes.

A border wall remains the centrepiece of the Republican president’s hardline agenda – and 2020 re-election hopes – which he claims is needed to curb illegal migration and drug trafficking.

Opposition Democrats have called the wall immoral, ineffective and expensive and a host of social groups have condemned the proposals variously as xenophobic and inhumane.

Trump’s plans had been thwarted by Congress and had largely stalled until February, when in an unusual move he declared a national emergency to fund the wall without congressional approval.

The Supreme Court ruling will enable the administration to redirect the $2.5bn approved by Congress for other military purposes – including personnel and recruiting, cruise missiles, aircraft upgrades, and Afghanistan – to wall construction under its emergency powers.

The Trump administration has said that in total it aims to redirect $6.7bn from the Department of Defense and the Treasury towards building the wall.

The redirection of funds is currently being challenged in a lawsuit led by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Sierra Club environmental group and Southern Border Communities Coalition.

However, in a major victory for Trump the supreme court judges ruled that the money could be unfrozen and redirected now – without having to wait for the outcome of the litigation.

Following the Supreme Court decision, the ACLU announced that it will seek to expedite proceedings before the ninth circuit court of appeals in order to restore a permanent block on border wall construction.

“This is not over. We will be asking the federal appeals court to expedite the ongoing appeals proceeding to halt the irreversible and imminent damage from Trump’s border wall,” said Dror Ladin, an attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project.

“Border communities, the environment, and our constitution’s separation of powers will be permanently harmed should Trump get away with pillaging military funds for a xenophobic border wall Congress denied.” 

  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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