Judge Haywood Gilliam, a U.S. District Court Judge based in Oakland, California put a stopper in the President’s border wall ambitions when he issued a preliminary injunction to stop $1 billion of border wall funding.
The money, which came in the form of a now halted transfer of funds from the Pentagon’s counterdrug funding, would’ve been used to expand and enhance border barriers. Further, though the possibility is untested and therefore speculative, the order may also jeopardize an additional $1.5 billion the administration was planning to divert. So far, the President’s Office had planned to use $8.1 billion for border wall purposes.
Judge Gilliam, an Obama nominee, issued the order on the reasoning that the administration’s diversionary transfer of funds was unconstitutional because its legal authority to use the funds was restricted to addressing “unforeseen” needs. Naturally, the government argued that the need to build the border wall was unforeseen, an argument that Judge Gilliam rejected.
In his decision, the Judge pointed to the numerous requests the administration had made for border wall funding as evidence that the project was anything but unforeseen. He also cited recent news events such as the lengthy government shutdown earlier this year, which resulted in $1.375 billion for border-wall construction. He further opined that permitting the administration to divert counterdrug funds in light of numerous Congressional funding denials would violate fundamental notions of separation of powers.
The President, predictably unhappy with this legal result, vowed that the appeal would be swift.
The ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought jointly by the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition who sought to legally oppose the President’s wall. However, though the order constitutes a setback, there are limits to Judge Gilliam’s decision. For example, the order only prohibits construction operations from occurring at certain border zones in the states of Texas and Arizona. Further, the order does not stop the President’s Office from diverting funding from alternative sources towards border wall construction.
Though the reasoning behind Judge Gilliam’s decision was primarily to ensure the constitutional separation of powers, the order has the short-term effect of halting wall construction which provides relief for landowners whose property will be bisected by the wall. Landowners should be aware that this order does not immediately impair the government’s ability to seize land via eminent domain. Therefore, individuals with property at the border should stay current on legal developments concerning wall construction.
Written by Christopher Chan