California, States Sue Over Latest Border Wall Funding Diversion From Pentagon

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – A coalition of states led by California sued the Trump administration Tuesday, accusing the White House of another illegal overreach by diverting $3.8 billion more from the military to fund the southern border wall.

Sidestepping Congress’ authority to appropriate funding for the wall, President Donald Trump declared a national immigration emergency last year and redirected $3.6 billion in Department of Defense dollars to the project, a move U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam ruled was unlawful this past December.

Government contractors erect a section of Pentagon-funded border wall along the Colorado River in Yuma, Ariz., on Sept. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Congress approved only $1.375 billion for wall construction this fiscal year. In a statement, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Trump is again flouting the Constitution by extending his national emergency and allowing more money to be funneled toward the border – this time from the state’s National Guard.

“Ignoring the rule of law comes easy to President Trump, even after our courts have slapped him down. This year’s victim of his taxpayer money grab is the National Guard, which would lose critical funds to secure essential equipment for our troops,” Becerra said. “Congress has repeatedly and explicitly rejected taxpayer funding for a wasteful Trump wall along the border. We’re going to court – once again – to remind Donald Trump that even the president is not above the law.”

California, whose National Guard receives 77% of its funding from the federal government, says in the complaint that it will lose $790 million from an account used to buy equipment and $100 million from an account meant to upgrade its Humvees. It also says the wall projects will harm endangered and threatened plant and animal species.

Attorneys general from Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin joined Becerra in the lawsuit.

All claim they will lose funding for National Guard equipment or other critical military projects, like firing ranges, aircraft, unit quarters, and training facilities.

“Use of these additional federal funds for the construction of a border wall is contrary to Congress’s intent and in violation of the U.S. Constitution, including separation of powers principles, the Presentment Clause, and the Appropriations Clause,” the states claim.

Their lawsuit comes just days after the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition filed a challenge to the funding diversion, characterizing it as an illegal power grab that imperils local wildlife.

“The Trump administration’s illegal transfer of billions of dollars for wall construction has created a disaster in the borderlands,” said Sierra Club managing attorney Gloria Smith said in a statement. “The destruction of cultural sites, Tribal burial grounds, endangered species, protected cacti and water resources shows that Trump will stop at nothing for this wall — not irreplaceable resources nor the Constitution. Trump wants a blank check for these destructive projects, but it is imperative that the courts continue to halt his egregious abuse of power.”

The Department of Defense did not respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday.

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