A federal judge in Oakland ruled Wednesday that a plan by the administration of President Donald Trump to divert $3.6 billion in military construction funds to build 175 miles of border wall in the southern U.S. is illegal.
U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam said the plan violated a federal law that allows diversion of military construction funds during a national emergency requiring the use of armed forces "when necessary to support such use of the armed forces."
Gilliam wrote in a 47-page ruling that the plan was not aimed at supporting armed forces, but rather at benefiting the U.S. Homeland Security Department, a civilian agency, in restricting illegal immigration.
Administration officials' interpretation of the law "would grant them essentially boundless authority to reallocate military construction funds to build anything they want, anywhere they want" in violation of
Congress's constitutional power over the federal budget, the judge wrote. He issued a permanent injunction blocking the use of the funds but stayed his order during appeals.
On Tuesday, however, a different federal judge in El Paso, Tex., issued a similar permanent injunction blocking the use of the same $3.6 billion and did not stay his order. That injunction is currently in effect, but White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said Wednesday the government plans to "immediately appeal."
Gilliam issued his ruling in a pair of lawsuits filed by California and eight other states, and by the Sierra Club together with a coalition of southern border organizations.
In another decision earlier in those cases, Gilliam in June issued a permanent injunction blocking the diversion of another $2.5 billion from military pay, pension and other accounts to build other sections of the wall under the terms of a different federal law.
Gilliam did not stay that injunction and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also declined to issue a stay, but in July, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a brief order suspending the injunction against the first $2.5 billion until all appeals are completed.
The separate $3.6 billion at issue in the rulings this week would come from 128 military construction projects planned within the United States and abroad. The diverted money would pay for 11 border barrier projects spanning 175 miles along the southern borders of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, "We applaud the court for declaring unlawful President Trump's desperate attempt to divert money from important military construction projects to build his unnecessary border wall Congress refused to fund."
Becerra said that one of the projects at risk in California is the $8 million construction of a flight simulator facility to train military personnel on aerial firefighting and rescue operations.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Dror Ladin, who represented the Sierra Club and border communities, said, "By putting an end to the president's power grab, this ruling protects our democracy's separation of powers, the environment, and border communities."