Legal challenge to Trump emergency declaration

A 16-state coalition filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump's administration on Feb. 18, requesting the court to issue a judicial determination that Trump's national emergency declaration over the southern border wall is unconstitutional. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the lawsuit, stating: "Unlawful southern border entries are at their lowest point in 20 years, immigrants are less likely than native-born citizens to commit crimes, and illegal drugs are more likely to come through official ports of entry. There is no credible evidence to suggest that a border wall would decrease crime rates."

The complaint charges Trump with violating the Constitution's separation of powers and appropriations clauses, saying there is “no objective basis” for the emergency declaration, and that even the president has said that an emergency declaration is not necessary.

The federal government’s own data prove there is no national emergency at the southern border that warrants construction of a wall... The thwarting of congressional intent to fund a vanity project that not only will fail to safeguard national security, but is positioned to cause significant harm to the public safety, public fisc, environment, and well-being of Plaintiff States’ residents, cries out for judicial intervention.

The 15 states that joined California in the lawsuit include: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia and Michigan. They allege they will suffer both economic and environmental harm if the emergency declaration takes full effect.

Legal advocacy group Public Citizen on Feb. 15 filed the first legal challenge the emergency declaration, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of three Texas landowners and a non-profit environmental group, Frontera Audubon Society. The complaint charges that the necessary seizures of property from the landowners would constitute an "imminent invasion of their privacy and the quiet enjoyment of their land, both during construction and after." The complaint further alleges that the construction of a border wall would cause injury by destroying "critical habitat" for local wildlife.

According to the complaint, 'the border wall will be part of an approximately 150 foot wide enforcement zone" that is proposed to run through all three landowner plaintiffs' properties.

Public Citizen argues that Trump has exceeded his authority by invoking the National Emergency Act (NEA) to order the building of a border wall because "no national emergency exists with respect to immigration across the southern border," and that Trump has "usurp[ed] legislative authority conferred by the Constitution on the Congress," constiuting a "violation of separation of powers."

Additionally, the complaint alleges that it is unlawful for Trump to use the Emergency Declaration to divert $8.1 billion in funds from the Department of Defense and other sources to begin construction of border wall projects merely because Congress refused to allocate such funds.

In addition to this suit, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit Feb. 16. The American Civil Liberties Union has also pledged to file a lawsuit.

From Jurist, Feb. 19; Jurist, Feb. 18. Used with permission.

ACLU files suit against Trump national emergency

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit Feb. 19 challenging Trump's declaration of a national emergency in efforts to fund the construction of a border wall. The organization, alongside the Sierra Club, claims that the use of taxpayer dollars in this manner is unconstitutional and calls for a limit on executive power.

Trump asserts his authority via 50 USC §§ 1601–1651, also known as the National Emergencies Act. Under this statute, Congress allows the president to declare a state of emergency in order to enact special powers in times of crisis. Of these powers, 10 USC § 2808 allows the President the ability to deploy military construction funds "that are necessary to support such [emergency] use of the armed forces." It is this provision that Trump is using to support access to the border wall's requisite funding.

The ACLU argues that Trump's declaration does not satisfy the requirements of § 2808 as there is no deployment of armed forces. They contend that Congress restricted the use of the provision specifically for military construction projects supporting the armed forces. Therefore, the provision is not applicable to the border wall and shows an unauthorized use of emergency powers.

Additionally, the ACLU argues the proclaimed "national emergency" is unprecedented and unconstitutional. In their complaint, the ACLU asserts these claims are evidenced by Trump's own acknowledgment that he did "not need to do this" as well as his continual failures to achieve funding via congressional approval. By evading congressional funding restrictions, the complaint claims Trump is extending his executive power in the guise of a national emergency. (Jurist)

Senate votes to reject Trump's national emergency

The US Senate voted 59-41 to reject Trump's declaration of a national emergency to appropriate an additional $3.6 billion in funding to build a wall along the border of Mexico.

Trump had used authority granted to him under the National Emergencies Act to direct funding from other military projects to address the supposed national emergency at the border. Under the Act, Congress has the opportunity to terminate the national emergency via a joint resolution. The House passed the joint resolution in February.

All 45 Democratic senators, both independent senators, and 12 Republican senators voted to terminate the national emergency. The 41 nays came from Republic Senators. Senators Alexander (R-TN), Blunt (R-MO), Collins (R-ME), Lee (R-UT), Moran (R-KS), Murkowski (R-AK), Paul (R-KY), Portman (R-OH), Romney (R-UT), Rubio (R-FL), Toomey (R-PA), and Wicker (R-MS) joined Senate Democrats in voting yea.

The joint resolution now moves to Trump, who is expected to veto. (Jurist)

Trump vetoes legislation seeking to block emergency declaration

US President Donald Trump on March 15 vetoed legislation attempting to block his declaration of a national emergency regarding US-Mexico border wall spending. This veto marks the first use of Trump's veto power. In a statement to the House of Representatives relaying his reasoning for the veto, Trump said:

[O]ur porous southern border continues to be a magnet for lawless migration and criminals and has created a border security and humanitarian crisis that endangers every American. This situation on our border cannot be described as anything other than a national emergency, and our Armed Forces are needed to help confront it. Every day, the crisis on our border is deepening, and with new surges of migrants expected in the coming months, we are straining out border enforcement personnel and resources to the breaking point. H.J. Res. 46 ignore these realities. It is, therefore, my duty to return it…without my approval.

The House is expected to hold a veto-override vote on March 26, but currently they do not have enough votes to be successful. (Jurist)