Twin Court Rulings Buoy Construction of Trump’s Border Wall

WASHINGTON — The White House on Thursday celebrated a federal court ruling that will allow $3.6 billion in military construction funds to be used for the construction of the border wall.

A separate court on Thursday lifted a restraining order on a private group allied with President Trump that wants to build its own barriers on private land.

The twin rulings buoyed Mr. Trump as his administration has found itself behind schedule on the president’s promise to build 450 miles of border wall by 2021. The decision by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to lift a lower-court ruling will allow the administration to use the military funds, about a third of the $11 billion that the administration obtained for the barriers, in part by declaring a national emergency and bypassing Congress.

Those funds will be used to build 175 miles of barrier in parts of Texas, Arizona and California.

A judge in Texas also allowed We Build the Wall, a group led by Mr. Trump’s former adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, to proceed with building barriers along a three-mile stretch along the Rio Grande in Hidalgo County, Texas. The group claims to have raised $25 million in private donations for border wall construction.

In a statement on Thursday, the White House applauded as “a victory for the rule of law” the appeals court ruling in New Orleans that lifted an “illegitimate nationwide injunction.”

“And in doing so,” the statement said, the court “has allowed vital border wall construction to move forward using military construction funds.”

The rulings came as Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, traveled to Yuma, Ariz., to host a news conference on Friday to celebrate the construction of 100 miles of Mr. Trump’s border wall. But the administration still faces an uphill road to completing a campaign promise of the president’s.

The Office of Inspector General for the Defense Department is still investigating a $400 million contract for wall construction awarded to Fisher Sand & Gravel, the same company building on the private land in Hidalgo County. The administration has also struggled to gain access to and acquire private land in Texas, where most of the wall’s path runs through.

Nearly all of the 100 miles of border wall built by the government crosses federal land.

The appeals court in New Orleans overturned a decision by an El Paso judge who ruled that Mr. Trump’s emergency proclamation, which enabled him to obtain the military funds, violated congressional restrictions. In a 2-to-1 decision, the Fifth Circuit ruled that there was a “substantial likelihood” that those challenging the administration, El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights, an advocacy group, lacked the standing to sue the administration.

The case in Texas involving the privately funded border wall will continue to be litigated, but the judge in the case, Randy Crane, allowed the construction to resume.

The National Butterfly Center, a nearby 100-acre nature preserve, sued We Build the Wall in December saying that the construction would harm the surrounding environment.

“This wall will have no effect besides that they will destroy vegetation and habitat and while it’s standing it will cause flooding,” said Jeffrey Glassberg, the founder and president of the North American Butterfly Association and a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

After celebrating the court’s ruling on Thursday, Brian Kolfage, who founded the campaign to pay for the border wall, was already tweeting videos of construction crews.

“They couldn’t prove a single claim in court,” Mr. Kolfage said of the plaintiffs. “It was embarrassing!”

Source link