SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — For three hours Friday, Federal Judge Haywood Gilliam heard arguments on whether to ban the Trump administration from spending more than congress appropriated on border barriers.
Judge Gilliam said he will issue a ruling before the end of next week.
Congress allocated $1.375 billion for border barriers on February 15, 2019. On that same day, President Trump declared a national emergency and outlined his plan to spend an additional $7 billion on barriers.
The other sources of funds are the Treasury Forfeiture Fund (providing $601 million towards the project), the Department of Defense’s counter-drug support authority ($2.5 billion), and unobligated military construction funds ($3.6 billion).
20 states including California filed a federal lawsuit to stop the extra spending. Another similar lawsuit was filed by the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
In both cases, the plaintiffs asked for a nationwide injunction to stop the government from spending any of the non-budgetary money on border construction. The hearing Friday combined both cases’ motions for injunctions.
The Department of Justice said that no construction has commenced on any barrier project. The Treasury Forfeiture Fund money will eventually pay for work on the Rio Grande Valley Sector, but the agreement to transfer the first chunk of money to the US Army Corps of Engineers won’t be in place until June 2019.
Some $1.6 billion of the Department of Defense’s counter-drug support money has been awarded in contracts, but construction on two of the projects will not begin on any of the projects until at least May 25. The others will not begin until at least July 1, 2019.
And as far as the unobligated military construction funds, the Secretary of Defense has yet to decide what to do with that $3.6 billion.
In fact, the DOJ argued that no injunction was even necessary for the unobligated military construction funds because nothing has happened yet.
“It’s going take some time after the Secretary’s decision to get contracts, award contracts, and start construction,” said DOJ Senior Trial Counsel Andrew Warden. “Nothing has actually happened external to the government.”
Dror Ladin, an attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, rejected the government’s argument.
“I think it’s extraordinary that the government said in February that there’s an emergency that requires that we suspend every normal way of doing government and get the military involved in building the wall,” said Ladin. “And now, three months later, they’re in court saying, ‘Let’s not do anything too fast. It’s an emergency but we haven’t made any decisions yet.'”
Plaintiffs asked the court to issue an injunction anyway and then require the government to come back and get permission from the judge for any expenditure. The DOJ requested the opposite: that the court decline to give an order and ask plaintiffs to come back if they object to specific projects.