House Asks Judge to Block Construction of Border Wall

Part of the border wall at Calexico, Calif. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Saying construction is imminent, the House of Representatives on Tuesday asked a federal judge to block the federal government from using money from President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to build a wall along the southern border.

“Absent this court’s timely intervention, defendants are poised to begin construction on the border wall next month, using funds that Congress declined to appropriate for that purpose,” the filing states. “This court should therefore issue a preliminary injunction to prevent that irreparable injury to the House.”

The 56-page motion for a preliminary injunction comes more than two weeks after the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives filed its lawsuit against the Trump administration over the president’s emergency declaration. Trump declared the emergency in February move money from other federal accounts into the construction of his long-promised border wall.

In both the initial complaint and the motion filed Tuesday, the House says this action violates the appropriations clause of the Constitution. Trump declared the emergency after lawmakers refused to meet his funding demands for the wall, giving him access to as much as $8.1 billion, even though Congress only approved $1.38 billion for the project.

The injunction motion states the Trump administration has already started awarding contracts for the wall, making the case a pressing one. The House says it is willing to speed up the schedule in the case so the court can decide quickly on the merits of the claims.

“If defendants are permitted to spend funds on border wall construction while this case is being litigated, those funds cannot be clawed back,” the motion states. “There is no question that the House will be irreparably injured absent an injunction.”

Looking to satisfy the list of requirements federal courts must check off before granting a preliminary injunction, the House says it is likely to succeed on its claims in part because the provisions of law the administration cites to free up money for the wall do not apply.

For example, one of the legal provisions the administration says will give it access to $3.6 billion only applies to a national emergency “that requires the use of the armed forces” and if the money goes towards a “military construction project” that is “necessary to support [the] use of the armed forces.”

The House says because border security is a “matter for domestic law enforcement” and because troops working at the border are limited to providing support, the emergency Trump declared does not meet these conditions.

The House also says the harm the injunction would cause the administration is far less than what the House would experience if the court allowed construction to go forward.

“In sharp contrast to any purported harm the defendants claim, the harm to the House cannot be undone,” the motion states.  

To make this point, the motion notes Trump said “I didn’t need to do this,” shortly after he announced the emergency declaration at a Rose Garden press conference in February.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment on the filing. 

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