Trump Sued by 18 States Over Emergency Declaration

A young Honduran jumps from the U.S. border fence at Tijuana on Dec. 21, 2018. (AP/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

(CN) – A coalition of 16 states hit the Trump administration with a federal complaint on Presidents Day to stop what they called an executive order that steers billions of dollars to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Contrary to the will of Congress, the president has used the pretext of a manufactured ‘crisis’ of unlawful immigration to declare a national emergency and redirect federal dollars appropriated for drug interdiction, military construction, and law enforcement initiatives toward building a wall on the United States-Mexico border,” the 57-page complaint states.

California is the lead plaintiff in the case, which was filed Monday in San Francisco, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a statement that throws President Donald Trump’s own words back at him.

“President Trump treats the rule of law with utter contempt,” Bacerra said. “He knows there is no border crisis, he knows his emergency declaration is unwarranted, and he admits that he will likely lose this case in court.”

Like other legal challenges to the national-emergency declaration, the new lawsuit says Trump undermined the immediate necessity for a border wall in his own announcement Friday from the Rose Garden at the White House.

“I could do the wall over a longer period of time,” Trump had said Friday, as quoted in the complaint. “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.”

Federal government data also deflates Trump’s claims of a border crisis.

“Customs and Border Protection data show that unlawful entries are near 45-year lows,” the complaint notes. “The State Department recognizes there is a lack of credible evidence that terrorists are using the southern border to enter the United States. Federal data confirm that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than are native-born Americans. CBP data demonstrate that dangerous drugs are much more likely to be smuggled through, not between, official ports of entry — rendering a border wall ineffectual at preventing their entry into this country.”

Public opinion data released today also shows that more than 6 out of 10 Americans oppose Trump’s national emergency declaration.

Though 85 percent of his Republic base support the plan, Democrats and Independents overwhelmingly oppose, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

New York is a co-plaintiff in the suit, and state Attorney General Letitia James slammed Trump’s executive orders as “illegal and immoral.”

“Diverting necessary funds from real emergencies, crime-fighting activities, and military construction projects usurps congressional power and will hurt Americans across the country,” James said in a statement. “We will not stand for this abuse of power and will fight using every tool at our disposal.” 

The morning after the lawsuit was filed, Trump fired off a tweet attacking the states opposing him and the court in which the fight landed.

“As I predicted, 16 states, led mostly by Open Border Democrats and the Radical Left, have filed a lawsuit in, of course, the 9th Circuit,” Trump said, referring to the San Francisco-based federal appeals court. “California, the state that has wasted billions of dollars on their out of control Fast Train, with no hope of completion, seems in charge!”

Other than California and New York, the states in the coalition are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Virginia. Each of them has a Democratic attorney general.

“If the administration were to use the funding sources identified in the executive actions, plaintiff states collectively stand to lose millions in federal funding that their national guard units receive for domestic drug interdiction and counter-drug activities, and millions of dollars received on an annual basis for law enforcement programs from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund, harming the public safety of plaintiff states,” the complaint states.

California and New Mexico, the two border states in the lawsuit, warn that the wall will threaten endangered wildlife.

The lawsuit alleges violations of the separation of powers, the appropriations clause of the Constitution, and the National Environmental Policy Act. The states also filed a separate claim for “ultra vires,” a Latin phrase describing an action done “beyond the powers.”

They seek a judicial declaration blocking the national emergency as unconstitutional.

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