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High Court Lets Construction Continue on Trump’s Border Wall (1)

July 31, 2020, 10:13 PM

An ideologically divided U.S. Supreme Court let work continue on President Donald Trump’s border wall, rejecting calls to block some of the construction in a clash over the use of Pentagon funds for the project.

The justices, voting 5-4 and giving no explanation, refused to revisit a year-old order in which they cleared work on the wall to start during the litigation. The rebuff is a setback for advocacy groups represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued to block segments totaling 130 miles (209 kilometers) in Arizona, New Mexico and California.

Most of those segments have been built over the past year, but the groups were asking the Supreme Court to stop construction of the final 40 miles.

The high court action is a boost for Trump as he rushes to complete as much wall as possible in the run-up to the November election and the January end of his current presidential term.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented. Writing for the group, Breyer said the court’s decision “may operate, in effect, as a final judgment.”

Lower courts have ruled that the administration violated the law by diverting money originally appropriated for other Defense Department purposes. A divided Supreme Court last year put on hold one of those rulings, a decision from a federal trial judge in Oakland, California, involving $2.5 billion in disputed funds.

In the latest tussle, the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition asked the high court to lift that stay order. The groups argued that the order had been in effect for so long the administration might be able to complete the entire 130-mile project without the Supreme Court ever addressing the merits of the lawsuit.

The ACLU said it will seek to have the newly constructed fencing torn down should the groups win the case. The Trump administration previously said that removal is a possibility.

“Every lower court to consider the question has ruled President Trump’s border wall illegal, and the Supreme Court’s temporary order does not decide the case,” Dror Ladin, the ACLU’s lead lawyer in the case, said in an emailed statement. “We’ll be back before the Supreme Court soon to put a stop to Trump’s xenophobic border wall once and for all.”

The case is Trump v. Sierra Club, 19A60.

(Updates with dissent from justices starting in fifth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Greg Stohr in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Jon Morgan at

Elizabeth Wasserman, Ros Krasny

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