16 States Sue to Stop Trump’s Use of Emergency Powers to Build Border Wall


WASHINGTON — A coalition of 16 states, together with California and New York, on Monday challenged President Trump in courtroom over his plan to use emergency powers to spend billions of on his border wall.

The lawsuit is an element of a constitutional confrontation that Mr. Trump set off on Friday when he declared that he would spend billions of extra on border boundaries than Congress had granted him. The conflict raises questions over congressional management of spending, the scope of emergency powers granted to the president, and the way far the courts are keen to go to settle such a dispute.

The go well with, filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco, argues that the president doesn’t have the ability to divert funds for establishing a wall alongside the Mexican border as a result of it’s Congress that controls spending.

[Read the full lawsuit here.]

Xavier Becerra, the legal professional common of California, stated in an interview that the president himself had undercut his argument that there was an emergency on the border.

The dispute stems from steps Mr. Trump said he would take after lawmakers granted him only $1.375 billion for new border barriers, legislation he signed last week to avoid another government shutdown.

Mr. Trump asserted the power to tap three additional pots of money on his own: $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund for law enforcement priorities; about $2.5 billion from a military antidrug account, most of which would first be siphoned from other military programs the Pentagon has yet to identify; and $3.6 billion in military construction funds he said he could redirect by invoking an emergency-powers statute.

Presidents have invoked emergency-powers statutes nearly five dozen times since Congress enacted the National Emergencies Act of 1976, but never before has one been used to make an end-run around Congress after it rejected funding for a particular policy.

Many critics have challenged whether an emergency truly exists on the Southern border that a wall would solve, pointing to government data showing that the number of people crossing illegally has dropped significantly over the past generation and that most drugs are smuggled through ports of entry.

The president has argued, without proof, that the emergency declaration is warranted because the migrants “invading” the United States across the Mexico border have caused epidemics of crime and drug use.

Legal specialists expected the Justice Department to urge a court not to consider facts about the border or Mr. Trump’s words, but rather to defer to the president’s decision. The courts have a long history of being reluctant to substitute their own judgment for the president’s about a security threat.

The Trump administration will have a powerful argument to invoke: In the National Emergencies Act, Congress defined no standard for what conditions have to be met before a president may determine that a qualifying crisis exists.

But before a judge could weigh whether Mr. Trump invoked the statute legitimately, he or she would have to decide whether the dispute is properly before the court in the first place.

Plaintiffs will need to establish standing by showing that they are suffering some particular injury from what Mr. Trump is doing. Several of the lawsuits involve people who own land or represent communities along the Mexican border in Texas, where Mr. Trump has put the focus of his emphasis on the need for more barriers.

But it is not clear whether any of the fencing will be built in California or New Mexico, two of the states in the lawsuit, and it certainly will not be built in other states involved in the litigation, like New York, New Jersey or Hawaii.

Mr. Becerra, California’s attorney general, suggested that plaintiffs in the states’ lawsuits have standing for reasons that are unrelated to whether any portions of Mr. Trump’s wall will be built in their territory, arguing that “the president’s unconstitutional action could cause harms in many parts of the country.”

People in California and other plaintiff states could “lose funding that they paid for with their tax dollars, money that was destined for drug interdiction or for the Department of Defense for military men and women and military installations,” he said in the interview.

Further complicating matters, the administration has said it intends to spend the funds in sequence, starting with the $1.375 billion Congress appropriated, and reaching the emergency-power military-construction fund last. The Justice Department is likely to argue that if no disputed spending is imminent, the case is not ripe for litigation and should be dismissed.

Ian Bassin, the executive director of Protect Democracy, said that El Paso County would probably argue that its economy was being harmed by Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration because it wrongfully signaled to businesses and potential tourists that they should stay away.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the wave of lawsuits. Mr. Trump has said he expected to be sued and to lose in lower courts, but he predicted he would eventually prevail before the Supreme Court.

But plaintiffs can also challenge whether the administration is interpreting several statutes correctly.

The provision that gives the secretary of defense authority to transfer some Pentagon money into the antidrug account Mr. Trump is then planning to tap, for example, says its authority may be used “in no case where the item for which funds are requested has been denied by the Congress” — raising the question of whether extra funding for border barriers counts as such a forbidden item.



Source link Nytimes.com

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