New Mexico joins suit over Trump’s border wall emergency

February 20, 2019

New Mexico is among the states taking President Donald Trump to court over the emergency declaration he issued last week to get funding to build a wall on the country’s southern border.

Attorney General Hector Balderas signed on to a lawsuit with 15 other states Monday arguing that the declaration is unconstitutional and that diverting federal funds from other projects to build the wall, as the White House has proposed, would be a blow to New Mexico’s economy as well as its environment.

“I am appalled that President Trump would bypass the rule of law, manufacture an ‘emergency,’ and weaken our national defense and readiness for a potential terrorist attack or catastrophic natural disaster,” Balderas said in a statement.

Trump campaigned on a pledge to build a wall on the border and said he would get Mexico to pay for it.

As president, however, he has demanded Congress provide funding for the project, culminating late last year in a political standoff and partial shutdown of the federal government.

To avert another shutdown, Congress recently approved nearly $1.4 billion for the wall.

But that was far short of the $5.7 billion he has demanded.

Trump went on to declare a national emergency last week in a procedural move the White House said would allow the president to redirect billions of dollars of other federal funds to the project.

The White House pointed to $2.5 billion it could take from counternarcotics operations and $3.6 billion it could take from construction projects at military facilities to fund the wall.

The prospect of the federal government diverting such funds underpinned Monday’s legal challenge.

The lawsuit notes the federal government has allocated about $85 million to construct a facility at Holloman Air Force Base and another $40 million to build an information systems facility at White Sands Missile Range.

Using money from those projects to build a wall on the border would harm New Mexico’s economy and particularly the communities around those bases, the lawsuit argued.

Filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a San Francisco federal court, the lawsuit also said constructing a wall along New Mexico’s 179-mile stretch of the international border would cause environmental damage by blocking wildlife migration, flooding and habitat loss.

The lawsuit questions why the president is only now declaring an emergency when he has argued for years that there is a crisis on the border that calls for the construction of a wall.

Moreover, the lawsuit argued that diverting federal funds “is contrary to Congress’s intent in violation of the U.S. Constitution.”

Joining New Mexico and California in the lawsuit are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Virginia.

The declaration itself prompted scorn from critics who argued building a wall would do nothing to address the needs of Central American migrants, many with children, who have turned up at the New Mexican border in recent months seeking asylum.

Trump’s “futile demand for a border wall does nothing to address the legitimate humanitarian and public safety concerns at the border, and his continued fear-mongering is actively harmful, as would be his wall,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement Monday.

But Steve Pearce, chairman of the state Republican Party and a former congressman who represented New Mexico’s stretch of the border, argued the funding Congress provided will not secure the frontier.

Pearce, who lost the governor’s race last year to Lujan Grisham, has criticized past proposals to build a wall along the entire stretch of the border, contending it would be ineffective.

On Monday, however, he argued the president has a responsibility to secure the border.

“If the governor is going to sue the president,” Pearce said, “is the state going to pick up the cost of paying for checking those who illegally enter to verify that they are not coming into New Mexico to harm our citizens?”

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