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Appeals court lifts block on federal funds for border wall; President Trump says construction 'ready to start'

Trump says it's for 'one of the largest sections' of the wall

GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP | Getty Images

A federal appeals court has lifted a lower court's decision to block federal defense funds the Trump administration plans to use to construct a section of wall along the southern United States border.

In a fairly brief court order issued Wednesday, a split three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a lower court's injunction on the funds from last month, Politico reported, with the two-judge majority ruling that there was a "substantial likelihood" that the plaintiffs in the matter lacked the proper legal standing to bring the case in the first place. The order also notes that the Supreme Court stayed a similar injunction from a different federal court in a suit brought by the Sierra Club.

The judicial hold on the roughly $3.6 billion was put in place by U.S. District Court judge David Briones of the Western District Texas last month in response to a lawsuit brought by the Border Network for Human Rights and El Paso County. The plaintiffs claim that the president is overstepping his constitutional authority by using a national emergency declaration to redirect defense funding for his border security efforts.

"Although I agree with my colleagues that this matter presents "a substantial case on the merits" and involves a "serious legal question," the dissent says, "I am unable to agree, without focused panel deliberation and discussion — possibly aided by dialogue with counsel — that the government presently has shown either a likelihood of success on the merits or irreparable harm in the absence of a stay."

President Donald Trump resorted to the declaration of a national emergency to build the border wall last February in the wake the 35-day partial government shutdown over border security funding. Since then, the declaration has not only been the subject of lawsuits, but also failed attempts to terminate it in Congress.

Trump responded to Wednesday's 5th Circuit order with a Thursday morning tweet saying that it had given administration "the go ahead to build one of the largest sections of the desperately needed Southern Border Wall" and that "Entire Wall is under construction or getting ready to start".

In September the Trump administration laid down a goal of constructing 450 miles of border wall by the end of 2020. However, acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chief Mark Morgan said last month, "It's hard right now to be able to say whether we're still going to be able to meet that goal, but I'm confident that we're going to be close."

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