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Court rules against El Paso, BNHR on Trump’s military fund diversion for border wall

The Trump administration border wall construction. (Mark Lambie / El Paso Times/TNS)
December 12, 2020

A U.S. appeals court overturned an El Paso federal judge’s ruling blocking the Trump administration from using military funds to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued the ruling Dec. 4 in a 2-1 decision against El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights’ lawsuit.

The lawsuit claimed it was unconstitutional for President Donald Trump to use military funds to build the wall in El Paso.

U.S. Senior Judge David Briones ruled in October 2019 that Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the border violates federal law.

In December, Briones issued an injunction preventing the Trump administration from diverting the funds. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a stay on the injunction in January until it made its final ruling.

Even before the appeals court’s ruling, El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court in September to review their case challenging the legality of the Trump administration’s use of military funds to build a border wall.

In the Fifth Circuit’s ruling last week, the justices ruled El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights had no standing to sue Trump over redirecting military fund.

The court, which is based in New Orleans, stated in a majority opinion that the argument El Paso County would lose money by diverting a $20 million Fort Bliss project to build the wall was inaccurate since the county would not be “directly harmed by the cancellation of the Fort Bliss project — no part of the $20 million would be paid to the county itself.”

It also ruled that the plaintiffs failed to prove that Trump’s emergency declaration hurt the reputation of the county.

As for the Border Network for Human Rights, the court ruled the organization’s claim it was forced to divert time and resources to help its members deal with the harmful effects of border wall construction is insufficient. The court said the organization failed in the lawsuits to “identify any particular projects that suffered because of the diversion of resources.”

“The only concrete diversion of resources identified by BNHR is that the organization is giving significantly more ‘Know Your Rights’ presentations to the local community,” the opinion states. “The declaration admits that BNHR gave more presentations due to fear caused by the President’s proclamation, not due to any concern over the impacts of construction.

In the lone dissenting opinion, U.S. Circuit Judge James Dennis argued “the cancellation of the Fort Bliss access roads project injured El Paso in a discrete, tangible way that is distinct from any injury suffered by other localities.”

It is unknown when the U.S. Supreme Court will make a decision on whether it will hear the appeal petition filed by El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights.

However, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden vowed to rescind most of Trump’s immigration policies, including the declaration of a national emergency on the border, which could make the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court unnecessary.


(c) 2020 the El Paso Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.