Wednesday, March 22, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Trump Administration Urges Judge to Reject House Lawsuit on Border Wall

The Trump administration urged a federal judge on Wednesday to reject the House of Representatives' request to block the administration from using money from President Donald Trump's emergency declaration to build a wall along the southern border.

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Trump administration urged a federal judge on Wednesday to reject the House of Representatives' request to block the administration from using money from President Donald Trump's emergency declaration to build a wall along the southern border.

"A preliminary injunction would interfere with the executive's ability to use its statutory authorities to respond to these concerns and harm the executive's strong interest in border security and enforcement of counter-drug and immigration laws," the filing states.

The House filed the lawsuit on April 5, challenging Trump's decision to declare a national emergency at the southern border, which the administration says allowed it to move money from military construction and other accounts to finance Trump's long-promised wall.

Trump declared the emergency after lawmakers gave the administration just more than $1.3 billion in a spending bill that ended a month-long government shutdown in February, a figure far short of Trump's demands.

In a 67-page document filed Wednesday night, the Trump administration argues the House of Representatives cannot bring the lawsuit and that even if it could, it has not shown it is entitled to an injunction, which the House requested in a motion of its own on April 23.

The first argument the administration makes is that Congress does not have standing to bring the lawsuit. To have standing, any party that brings a lawsuit in federal court must show that they have suffered some injury that is connected to the defendant's actions and can be resolved by the court.

The Trump administration says the fight over the emergency wall funding is inherently political and that courts were never meant to step into such disputes.

"The framers predicted that the political branches would disagree - indeed, they counted on it - and thus gave Congress and the executive the necessary tools to resolve those disagreements themselves," the filing states. "But nowhere does the Constitution contemplate Article III courts resolving these inter-branch disputes."

Citing Supreme Court and D.C. Circuit precedent, the administration says the House cannot have standing based on its claims that moving money from the other accounts to fund the wall violates its institutional interests because the House has non-judicial means of expressing displeasure with Trump's action.

"The House had and continues to 'enjoy ample legislative power' to alleviate its purported harm and is fully capable of defending its interests without resort to the judiciary," the filing states. "The House could, for example, repeal or amend the terms of any statutory authority that it has conferred on the executive branch. It could decline to enact legislation or withhold funding for the president's preferred programs."

The filing also notes both the House and Senate voted to terminate Trump's emergency declaration, but were unable to garner the support necessary to override the president's subsequent veto.

The administration then says the House's constitutional claims are "nothing more than statutory claims in disguise." Congress in a series of laws authorized the executive branch to tap into the accounts in certain circumstances and did not explicitly restrict the Trump administration from using those powers to build the wall, the administration argues.

"Had Congress wished to restrict all other border barrier construction - including construction where other statutory authorities authorized funding - it could have done so by imposing appropriations riders, as it has done in the past, including elsewhere in the very same appropriations act," the filing states.

Ticking off the other factors judges look to when assessing motions for preliminary injunctions, the administration also says the House's claimed injuries are not "irreparable" and that the administration would be more harmed if the injunction were granted than Congress would be if it were not.

"Border walls have proven to be extremely effective at stopping drugs and migrants from unlawfully crossing the southern border," the administration's filing states. "In these circumstances, a preliminary injunction prohibiting the construction of additional barriers would harm the public's interest in border security and public safety."

The House will respond to the administration's filing by May 15, with a hearing set on the injunction for May 24. U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, is hearing the case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.