President Donald Trump was ready to break ground Monday morning on his long-promised Mexico border wall.
But a court ruling late Friday dealt the president another setback. A federal judge who last month blocked a pair of construction projects in Arizona and New Mexico added four more sites in Arizona and California. And the Oakland, California-based judge turned his temporary injunction into a permanent one.
Trump promised to appeal the ruling immediately, and complained that district court judges can issue nationwide injunctions.
“We’ll appeal it right away,” he said at a news conference following the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan on Saturday. “It’s very unfair. We’re building a lot of wall. But we had a ruling just yesterday, late, from a judge in the 9th Circuit. There’s no reason that that should have happened.”
The ruling is almost certain to be challenged by Trump. The administration quickly appealed Haywood Gilliam’s May order after the president took to Twitter to call it “a ruling against Border Security” by “another activist Obama appointed judge.” Friday’s ruling came hours after Justice Department lawyers told the judge that unless he intervened, the Department of Homeland Security planned to move ahead with construction on the four newer projects “as early as the morning of July 1.”
Gilliam agreed with the Sierra Club that Trump overstepped his authority by reprogramming federal funds without approval from Congress. But he also ruled that because the administration has yet to propose any projects beyond the six at issue in the lawsuit, a broader injunction barring border barrier projects altogether is unwarranted.
As he ruled in May, Gilliam again rejected the administration’s argument that the Defense Department “did not transfer funds for an item previously denied by Congress and that the transfer was for an ‘unforeseen’ requirement.”
Administration officials “again present no new evidence or argument for why the court should depart from its prior decision, and it will not,” the judge said in the 11-page order.
The White House had no immediate comment and the Justice Department declined to comment. The administration has a request pending with the US Court of Appeals in San Francisco to freeze Gilliam’s May ruling while the litigation continues.
“These rulings critically stop President Trump’s illegal money grab to divert $2.5 billion of unauthorised funding for his pet project,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “All President Trump has succeeded in building is a constitutional crisis, threatening immediate harm to our state.”
Trump initially sought $5.6 billion for the wall but Democrats in Congress refused, sparking a 35-day partial government shutdown. After Congress authorised $1.4 billion for border security, Trump declared a national emergency on February 15 — citing a surge in attempted crossings by immigrants — and said he would get the funding he needed elsewhere.
The president’s emergency declaration drew several lawsuits, including complaints by the Sierra Club and a California-led coalition of 20 state attorneys general.
A similar suit brought by Democrats in the US House was thrown out by a judge in Washington who said his court didn’t have jurisdiction over the matter.
The administration has said it needed to get the contracting process started by the middle of this year to ensure that funding is available.