The US Supreme Court has paved the way for President Donald Trump’s administration to use billions of dollars in military funds to build parts of a border wall with Mexico.
The decision handed down by the conservative-majority court clears the way for Trump to make progress on a major 2016 campaign promise as he moves into his race for a second term.
“Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!” Trump said after the announcement.
The Supreme Court’s move reverses the decision of a trial court, which initially froze the funds in May, and an appeals court, which kept that freeze in place earlier this month.
The freeze had prevented the government from tapping approximately $2.5bn in Defense Department money to replace existing sections of barrier in the states of Arizona, California and New Mexico with more robust fencing.
The lawsuit at the Supreme Court was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition. Those responsible for the lawsuit said the wall would be disruptive to the environment in part because it could worsen flooding problems and have a negative impact on wildlife.
The five justices who went against the lower courts did not give a lengthy explanation for their decision. But they said that the government had made a “sufficient showing at this stage” that those bringing the lawsuit did not have a right to challenge the decision to use the money.
“Today’s decision to permit the diversion of military funds for border wall construction will wall off and destroy communities, public lands, and waters in California, New Mexico, and Arizona,” said Gloria Smith, an attorney with the Sierra Club.
Trump had originally requested $5.7bn from the Congress for his border wall, but after a battle that included a record 35-day federal government shutdown, he eventually signed a spending bill that included appropriations of just $1.4 billion for border barriers.
On February 15, citing an “invasion” of drugs and criminals, he declared a national emergency at the border. This allowed him to reassign billions of dollars in other government funding. The $2.5 billion in Defense Department funds at play in the Supreme Court ruling were part of that repurposed money.