In a 2-1 ruling on Friday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision that ruled that the Trump administration's decision to fund a wall on the southern border of the United States by declaring an emergency and diverting money from the Department of Defense was unconstitutional.
The suit was originally brought by a group of plaintiffs led by the environmental activist group The Sierra Club. The plaintiffs alleged that the Trump administration's decision to divert funds that had been appropriated under the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2019 via the declaration of an emergency was unlawful and unconstitutional. A district court in California ruled in favor of the plaintiffs last year and issued an injunction preventing the funds from being used to construct the wall.
The administration argued that Section 8005 of the Appropriations Act permitted the transfer of up to $4 billion, but the court noted that the section in question stated, "Provided, That such authority to transfer may not be used unless for higher priority items, based on unforeseen military requirements, than those for which originally appropriated and in no case where the item for which funds are requested has been denied by the Congress."
The court ultimately concluded that the administration had failed to show that the border wall was an "unforeseen military requirement," and that the transfer of funds violated both the Act itself and the Constitution.
The court's ruling may mean that the Supreme Court is once again called upon to rule on the manner in which the Trump administration is attempting to fund the wall. Last year, the Court stepped in to temporarily lift a stay imposed during the course of the current litigation, ruling that the Sierra Club had failed to properly demonstrate legal standing in the case.
Between funding challenges and legal challenges, the administration has struggled to deliver on its promise to build hundreds of miles of new fencing along the border with Mexico. As of late June, about 216 miles of border fencing have been completed, but a substantial majority of that fencing replaced existing fencing.