Appeals court upholds ruling blocking Trump from using defense funds for border wall

Two of the three judges on the panel affirmed that the administration could not build the barriers during future challenges.

Appeals court upholds ruling blocking Trump from using defense funds for border wall

The divided three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit agreed with a lower court’s decision from Friday that ruled the Trump administration did not have the authority to reallocate the funds without congressional approval. The administration immediately appealed.

Two of the three judges on the panel affirmed that the administration could not build the barriers during future challenges.

“We conclude that it is best served by respecting the Constitution’s assignment of the power of the purse to Congress, and by deferring to Congress’ understanding of the public interest as reflected in its repeated denial of more funding for border barrier construction,” wrote Judges Michelle Friedland, an Obama appointee, and Richard Clifton, a George W. Bush appointee.

Judge N. Randy Smith, also a Bush appointee, dissented, calling the ruling “an uncharted and risky approach.”

“This approach is in contradiction to the most fundamental concepts of judicial review,” Smith said. “The majority has created a constitutional issue where none previously existed.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Sierra Club, hailed the freezing of the funds as a victory.

“Congress and now two courts have said no to border wall funds,” Dror Ladin, a staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a statement Friday. “For the sake of our democracy and border communities, it’s time the president come to terms with the fact that America rejected his xenophobic wall — and move on.”

As a surge of migrants arrived at the U.S. border, Trump declared a national emergency in February to reallocate funds from counterdrug programs of the Defense Department to build more barriers. This came after a monthslong impasse between the White House and Congress, and a partial government shutdown over funding construction of the wall.

The move to reallocate the funds, which critics of the administration said contradicted the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution, was then challenged in two separate lawsuits.

Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California temporarily blocked part of Trump’s plan to build the wall in May. On Friday, Gilliam again blocked the efforts, describing the plan as “unlawful.”

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Seattle blocked another attempt by the administration to deter migration.

Judge Marsha J. Pechman of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington stopped the administration from denying a bond hearing to migrants who crossed the border illegally, which would have kept them jailed until they received a decision on an immigration case.

The administration Wednesday called that ruling “at war with the rule of law.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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