ACLU Says It Will Fight $3.8 Billion Budget Diversion to Border Wall

WASHINGTON (CN) – The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday declared it would fight in court to stop the Trump administration’s potential diversion of an additional $3.8 billion in military funds toward a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

“Multiple courts have ruled that it is illegal for Trump to pillage military funds for his xenophobic border wall. Not one court has given his unlawful power grab the stamp of approval,” said Dror Ladin, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project. “We’ll be back in court to block these additional, unauthorized transfers.”

Construction on a section of Pentagon-funded border wall in Arizona in September 2019. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The ACLU’s announcement follows reports that the Pentagon was seeking to transfer more than $3 billion from its budget to help fund the president’s pet project and campaign promise. According to Defense News, which obtained the Pentagon’s reprogramming request to Congress, the transfer would shift money away defense appropriations, especially from the Air Force and Navy’s aviation budgets, and from overseas contingency operations.  

This hefty funding diversion would reportedly cause cuts to military weapons programs and developments such as the F-35 fighter jet. 

The ACLU said it will add a request to block this recent funding diversion attempt to an existing lawsuit the group brought to federal court almost a year ago.

The underlying lawsuit, which was filed in February 2019, challenges the constitutionality of Trump’s use of an emergency declaration to bypass Congress after it decided not to allow further use military funds for the construction and reinforcement of a border wall. 

Congress last year rejected Trump’s attempt to divert funding from the military’s coffers to border wall construction. Civil rights groups joined many Democratic leaders in publicly calling the subsequent attempts to divert money from the Pentagon towards the border wall an “abuse” of emergency powers. 

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition – a group made up of 60 organizations from California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The Communities Coalition promotes policies and “solutions that improve quality of life in border communities,” according to the ACLU.  

The groups say the 2019 Appropriations Act passed by Congress explicitly rejected President Trump’s $5.7 billion demand for a border wall and forbade construction in certain areas, “including carve-outs for wildlife areas.”

The Appropriations Act is among several laws the groups accuse the Trump Administration of violating.

In July, the Supreme Court ruled Trump could begin using military funds. 

The July 26 ruling granted permission for the administration to divert $2.5 billion in military funds in order to begin construction of a wall while the litigation proceeded – blocking a lower court’s injunction. 

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell confirmed in an email last month that the Department of Defense had received a request for the funding of about 270 miles of border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.  

The Pentagon could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

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