A federal appeals court ruled late Wednesday that the Trump Administration can use nearly $4 billion in military funds for construction of the president’s long-promised border wall.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed an earlier decision by El Paso-based U.S. District Judge David Briones that blocked the spending. The latest decision allows the funds to be spent while the case plays out in its appeal.
The Trump administration had earmarked $3.6 billion for construction of 11 barriers on the southern border, CNN reported Wednesday. El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights, an El Paso-based advocacy group, filed the original lawsuit. The Trump administration asked the appeals court to consider the matter Dec. 16.
The administration has been stymied so far in most of its efforts to come through with one of the president’s signature campaign promises, but the latest ruling could change that as the 2020 elections approach. The president has been successful in curbing the number of unauthorized immigrants who have arrived to the U.S. border seeking asylum, thanks to policies that require migrants to wait in Mexico for their court hearings. But despite that success, the president continues to tout the wall as another effective way to stop illegal immigration.
The White House called the decision a victory Thursday.
"The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has lifted an illegitimate nationwide injunction entered by a lower court, and in doing so has allowed vital border wall construction to move forward using military construction funds. This is a victory for the rule of law. We are committed to keeping our borders secure, and we will finish the wall," the White House said in a statement.
Kristy Parker, an attorney at the nonprofit Protect Democracy, said she felt confident the courts would ultimately rule that using the military funds is unlawful.
“A court has already determined that the government can’t lawfully use military construction funds to build Trump’s border wall,” Parker said in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that the people of El Paso will continue to suffer harm while the government appeals, but we’re confident that we’ll prevail again in this next stage of litigation.”
Fernando Garcia, executive director at the Border Network for Human Rights, said his organization will soon meet with its legal team to decide how to proceed after Wednesday's "unfortunate" ruling.
"We think they completely ignored a very strong argument by Judge Briones, the federal judge in El Paso, that the [use of funds] was an illegal act because Trump violated the checks and balances and authority of the U.S. Congress," he said. "We are surprised they ignored that fact."