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16 states’ lawsuit aims to stop Trump border wall emergency declaration

February 19, 2019 GMT

Sixteen Democrat-led states made good Monday on their threat to sue to stop President Trump’s emergency declaration to build his border wall, hoping to use the West Coast’s famously liberal courts to block him.

Led by California, the states said Mr. Trump’s move showed “flagrant disregard” for the Constitution by attempting to spend money after Congress had refused to grant him as much as he wanted for wall construction.

They argued they had standing to sue because, they figure, some of the money Mr. Trump had redirected would have been spent within their borders on other activities, making them uniquely harmed by his decision.


“Declaring a national emergency when one does not exist is immoral and illegal,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose state also joined. “Diverting necessary funds from real emergencies, crime-fighting activities, and military construction projects usurps congressional power and will hurt Americans across the country. We will not stand for this abuse of power and will fight using every tool at our disposal.”

The case was filed in the federal court in the Northern District of California, where judges over the last two years have repeatedly proved to be formidable Trump opponents on everything from his travel ban to his sanctuary city crackdown.

It joins at least two other lawsuits filed late last week by environmental groups and Texas landowners in federal district court in Washington, D.C.

They each are seeking to block Mr. Trump from spending any money beyond the $1.375 billion Congress approved last week for new fence construction in Texas. Mr. Trump, while signing that legislation, also triggered emergency powers he says allow him to shift nearly $7 billion in other money toward wall construction.

Beyond some rhetorical chest-thumping, the lawsuits all make similar claims: that Mr. Trump is stretching the National Emergencies Act beyond its limits to divert funds to his wall project, and that there is no emergency.

On that latter score the states Monday argued illegal immigration across the border is low pointing to numbers of people apprehended as proof and asserted that “immigrants” commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens.

The states also complained in their lawsuit that the law Congress passed last week “made clear that funding could not be used to build President Trump’s border wall.”

Yet that appears to be a semantics game. The administration has said it plans to use the money, both what Congress approved and what the president is rearranging, to build the same steel-bollard construction that the Border Patrol has used for years.


The challenges to the president’s declaration are likely to rest on how deeply judges want to get involved in peering behind the curtain into a president’s decision-making. Judges, including ones in both Washington, D.C., and northern California, did that in the case of the president’s travel ban, only to see those rulings overturned by the Supreme Court.

Mr. Trump last week said he’s ready for the legal fight though he sounded less than optimistic about winning the early rounds, predicting near-certain losses in places like California and the 9th Circuit.

“We will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we’ll get another bad ruling, and then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court. And hopefully we’ll get a fair shake, and we’ll win in the Supreme Court,” Mr. Trump said.

Officials said what Mr. Trump is doing follows in the footsteps of previous presidents, who have declared more than 50 national emergencies over the years since the National Emergencies Act was adopted in the 1970s.