(CN) – A federal judge Friday has partially blocked the Trump administration from building parts of a wall along the southern border and blocks the transfer of nearly $1 billion in funds from the Defense Department to pay for it.
While U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr. of the Northern District of California denied a temporary injunction requested by 20 states in a lawsuit to block construction, he granted the injunction to a similar lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of The Sierra Club and The Southern Border Communities Coalition.
Following the end of a congressional budget fight in February that left President Donald Trump without the money he asked for his border wall, he declared a national emergency in order to shore up funds from the Defense Department for its construction.
Finding that construction in parts of Texas and Arizona may cause “irreparable harm” to the environment and that plaintiffs were “likely to show” the Trump administration “exceeded their statutory authority, Judge Gilliam said the temporary injunction was warranted.
Gilliam referred to the separation of powers between the three branches of government, particularly the Legislative’s power of allocating funding.
“Congress’s “absolute” control over federal expenditures—even when that control may frustrate the desires of the Executive Branch regarding initiatives it views as important—is not a bug in our constitutional system,” Gilliam wrote in the 56-page ruling. “It is a feature of that system, and an essential one.”
Judge Gilliam cited James Madison’s Federalist Papers on the importance of limiting the executive branch from taking powers belonging to other government branches.
“In short, the position that when Congress declines the Executive’s request to appropriate funds, the Executive nonetheless may simply find a way to spend those funds ‘without Congress’ does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic,” Gilliam wrote.
The ACLU argued that the emergency declaration was used unlawfully to gather funding for the wall after Congress denied President Trump the more than $5 billion he asked for. ACLU staff attorney Dror Ladin said they were happy with the ruling.
“This order is a win for our system of checks and balances, the rule of law, and border communities. The court blocked all the wall projects currently slated for immediate construction. If the administration begins illegally diverting additional military funds, we’ll be back in court to block that as well,” Ladin said in a statement.
Gloria Smith, managing attorney for The Sierra Club, said the ruling was a win for the environment as well.
“Walls divide neighborhoods, worsen dangerous flooding, destroy lands and wildlife, and waste resources that should instead be used on the infrastructure these communities truly need,” Smith said in a statement. “The Sierra Club and our members are thrilled the courts put a rightful check on Trump’s abuse of emergency powers.”