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Border & Immigration

Appeals Court OKs Some Of Trump’s Military Funds For Border Wall But Other Lawsuits Remain

U.S. workers place barbed wire atop the border fence in El Paso, Texas, U.S., as pictured from Ciudad Juarez
Jose Luis Gonzalez/REUTERS
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U.S. workers place barbed wire atop the border fence in El Paso, Texas, U.S., as pictured from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico August 11, 2020. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez - RC2ZBI9S6PAZ

A federal appeals court has approved the Trump administration’s use of $3.6 billion in military funds for border wall construction along the Southern border.

The Friday ruling reverses a lower court’s decision from December 2019, but other legal challenges over border wall funding continue ahead of the transition to the Biden administration.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights did not have the standing to challenge the Trump administration.

In a split decision, the panel of judges said the county and nonprofit could not prove harm from the funding plan for wall projects in El Paso, Laredo, California, Arizona and New Mexico. The largest project funded is a 52-mile-long wall in north Laredo.

The ruling majority also disagreed with an October ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that deemed Trump’s emergency declaration to reallocate the funds unlawful. It came in response to a separate lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of other groups.

The fight over border wall funding started in early 2019 when Congress denied President Donald Trump's request for $5.7 billion to build more wall along the Southern border. In February 2019, Trump went around Congress by declaring a State of Emergency at the border and reallocating $6.1 billion funds from the Department of Defense to build the wall.

The move spurred multiple lawsuits. The American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, challenged the constitutionality of the emergency declaration for the $3.6 billion from DOD funds.

The Ninth Circuit sided with them in October, but the Trump administration responded in November asking for the Supreme Court to review the ruling along with another case, according to David Donatti, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas.

The ACLU also contested the use of $2.5 billion from military counter-narcotics funds for border wall projects. The Supreme Court in October agreed to review that case next spring, after first declining to take up the case and allowing Trump to continue construction with those funds in 2019.

President-elect Joe Biden has promised to not build any new border wall, but the Trump administration has moved forward with construction efforts ahead of the change in the Oval Office.

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