Mexico border wall: US states sue over emergency declaration

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United States President Donald J. Trump declares a National Emergency over the southern border and the need for border security in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on February 15, 2019. Trump cited drugs and gangs as a reason for the end run around Congress. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI

A coalition of 16 US states led by California is suing President Donald Trump’s administration over his decision to declare an emergency to raise funds for a Mexican border wall.

The lawsuit was filed in the court for the Northern District of California.

It comes days after Mr Trump invoked emergency powers to bypass Congress and secure funding for the project – a key campaign pledge.

Democrats have vowed to contest it “using every remedy available”.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said they were taking President Trump to court “to block his misuse of presidential power”.

“We’re suing President Trump to stop him from unilaterally robbing taxpayer funds lawfully set aside by Congress for the people of our states. For most of us, the office of the presidency is not a place for theatre,” he added.

The lawsuit filed on Monday seeks a preliminary injunction that would stop Mr Trump acting on his emergency declaration while a legal battle takes place in the courts, the Washington Post reported.

Mr Trump announced the plan after Congress refused funding for the wall.

The first legal challenge followed swiftly on Friday. A liberal advocacy group, Public Citizen, sued on behalf of a nature reserve and three Texas landowners who have been told the wall may be constructed on their properties.

Governor Gavin Newsom of California dismissed the president’s decision as “political theatre” while New York state’s Democratic attorney general, Letitia James, promised to “fight back with every legal tool at our disposal”.

Joining California in the lawsuit were Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia and Michigan.

The states argue that President Trump’s order to divert funds to pay for the wall would cost them millions of dollars, damaging their economies.

How did Mr Trump declare the emergency?

Making the announcement in the White House Rose Garden on Friday, the president said the emergency would allow him to get almost $8bn for the wall.

This is still considerably short of the estimated $23bn cost of the wall along almost 2,000 miles (3,200km) of border.

Mr Trump accepted that he would be sued for the move, and predicted that the emergency order would lead to legal action which was likely to end up in the Supreme Court.

“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border,” he said.

“Everyone knows that walls work.”

However, the president also said that he did not need to declare the emergency but did so in the hope of obtaining the funds for the wall more quickly, but analysts say these comments could undermine his legal arguments.

What is a national emergency?

The National Emergencies Act is intended for times of national crisis. Mr Trump has claimed that there is a migration crisis at the nation’s southern border – a claim strongly refuted by migration experts.

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