California sued to block President Donald Trump from diverting funds from the federal budget to pay for his promised border wall, joined by more than a dozen states who say the move exceeds the power of his office.
The states allege that it was unconstitutional for Trump to declare a national emergency to unlock more money to build a barricade along the southern U.S. border after Congress opted to fund construction of only about 55 miles (89 kilometers) of physical barriers. The declaration allows him to reallocate about $8 billion.
The declaration violates the Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine by ignoring Congress’s decision not to authorize more than $1.35 billion for border security, the states said in the suit. The Constitution gives Congress authority over government spending.
“Contrary to the will of Congress, the president has used the pretext of a manufactured ‘crisis’ of unlawful immigration to declare a national emergency and redirect federal dollars appropriated for drug interdiction, military construction and law enforcement initiatives toward building a wall on the United States-Mexico border,” the states said in the complaint filed Feb. 18 in San Francisco federal court. Sixteen states signed on, led by California.
In unscripted remarks on Feb. 15, Trump depicted his emergency declaration as an ordinary action invoked by every president in the past 40 years, but also said he expected it to be challenged in court. Trump’s decree breaks with those of his predecessors because it came after Congress rejected his wall proposal.
Trump said during the speech that he expected to be sued and predicted that he may lose if the case winds up before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in San Francisco. He’s frequently criticized that court as biased against him, and tweeted on Feb. 19 --erroneously -- that the states’ suit was already before the appeals court and that the group was “led mostly by Open Border Democrats and the Radical Left.”
The states are asking a judge to impede Trump’s emergency declaration and prohibit the administration from diverting funds toward building a border wall and from constructing a border wall without funds from Congress for that purpose. The suit follows at least two complaints filed on Feb. 15 by Texas landowners along the border and in El Paso County, citing similar constitutional violations. Meanwhile, Congress is still mulling its own legal and legislative options to challenge the president.
In their lawsuit, the states describe the president’s emergency declaration as his latest action that’s “veered the country toward a constitutional crisis of his own making.” They argue in the complaint that California and its fellow plaintiffs would suffer irreparable economic harm if funds were to be diverted from their own national guard units and military construction projects. They also say the president has “no objective basis” for declaring his emergency.
“By the president’s own admission, an emergency declaration is not necessary,” according to 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 dispute is the 46th lawsuit filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra challenging the Trump administration’s policy agenda. The state and its Democratic allies have been largely successful in stalling and sometimes halting the administration’s aggressive plans on immigration, the environment and health care. The travel ban went through three iterations before the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional.
California is joined by Nevada, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia.
Some states are still considering what action to take, if any. The Massachusetts attorney general’s office said Monday it’s still evaluating the president’s proclamation to
The case is California v. Trump, 3:19-cv-00872, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
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(Updated with additional reporting.)