OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Calling President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border a “threat to our democratic institutions,” a coalition of 20 states asked a federal judge on Friday to block the action as unconstitutional.
The coalition’s request for a nationwide preliminary injunction is the latest in a flurry of court challenges to stop Trump from diverting $6.7 billion in taxpayer dollars to build his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which his administration contends is necessary to stem illegal immigration into the United States from Mexico and Central America.
On Thursday, a House panel authorized its own lawsuit over Trump’s declaration. In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the lawsuit will claim the president’s use of money from other government agencies to build the wall violates the Appropriations Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The states’ suit, filed in February and pending before U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam Jr., also alleges violations of federal environmental law and the separation of powers.
“President Trump’s actions diverting funding to fulfill his vanity project violates our Constitution and our laws,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a news conference announcing the coalition’s latest challenge Friday. “Our democracy is successful because our branches of government are coequal, and that is why it is so important for us stand up and say ‘No.'”
Congress has repeatedly rebuffed Trump’s calls to fund a border wall, resulting in a record 35-day partial government shutdown in January over the dispute. To reopen the government and prevent a second shutdown, Congress approved a nearly $1.4 billion appropriation for fencing along a stretch of the southwestern border, but made clear that funding could not be used to build Trump’s wall.
Trump nonetheless declared his intention on Feb. 15 to redirect federal funds toward the construction of a border wall.
In its lawsuit, the California-led coalition claims diversion of federal funding – millions of which is earmarked annually for military construction projects and counter-narcotics programs in their states – will harm public safety, damage their economies and cause “irreparable” environmental damage on California’s and New Mexico’s southern borders.
Friday’s motion challenges Trump’s plan to take $1.6 billion from the U.S. Treasury Department’s forfeiture fund and the U.S. Defense Department’s drug interdiction account for border wall construction.
According to the coalition’s brief, the Treasury Department recently announced it has diverted or will soon divert $601 million to Homeland Security to fund wall construction and has already made $242 million of that money available through construction contracts. The Defense Department has likewise notified Congress it will transfer $1 billion in funds for border wall fencing in New Mexico and Arizona.
“President Trump says his goal is to protect America, but you have to ask, from what?” Becerra said Friday. “Any crisis at the border is of President Trump’s own making. Whether out of ignorance, cruelty or a deliberate self-fulfilling agenda, President Trump’s policies exacerbate any issues at our border.”
Asked why his state is spearheading the coalition’s lawsuit, Becerra said California stands to lose “billions” of dollars if Trump’s border policies go unchecked. California’s agricultural industry and industries and businesses located around the border would all take hits, given the amount of cross-border commerce and the number of people who cross the border daily to work and attend school.
“When you’re the biggest state and one of the four states along the border, you have a lot at stake,” he said. “California will suffer immensely.”
The Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, which also sued over the national-emergency declaration in Oakland federal court, filed their own motion for a preliminary injunction late Thursday. That motion seeks to block the administration from building portions of the wall in Yuma, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas, arguing wall construction would disrupt the biologically diverse ecosystems through which the wall would run.
The Justice Department had no immediate comment Friday.