Judge Blocks US Administration From Illegally Diverting Border Wall Funds
Judge Blocks US Administration From Illegally Diverting Border Wall Funds

By Caden Pearson

A federal judge on Friday blocked the Biden administration from unlawfully redirecting taxpayer funds away from the construction of a wall along the southern border.

Southern District of Texas District Court Judge Drew B. Tipton granted a preliminary injunction after Texas and Missouri sued to stop the scheme, which included diverting the money to other projects like environmental remediation.

“Whether the Executive Branch must adhere to federal laws is not, as a general matter, an area traditionally left to its discretion,” Judge Tipton wrote in his order. The executive branch includes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Judge Tipton, an appointee of President Donald Trump, ruled in favor of the Republican-led states, saying in his ruling that Congress should decide how money is spent, per the U.S. Constitution, and that the Biden administration is not immune from following the law.

President Trump declared a national emergency in February 2019 and used funds from the Departments of Defense and Treasury to construct barriers at the southern border. Congress allocated $1.4 billion explicitly for border wall construction during the 2020 fiscal year to stem the flow of illegal immigration.

However, President Joe Biden, a Democrat, issued an executive order immediately upon taking office in January 2021, terminating the emergency and halting construction. He later directed the DHS to divert the funds to ancillary projects along the border, but not the wall.

This led to both Texas and Missouri filing separate lawsuits against the DHS, which were ultimately combined.

The Biden administration argued that, despite certain language in the law, the DHS should be allowed to spend the money at its discretion.

However, the judge disagreed with this argument, effectively finding that President Biden was wrong to spend funds specifically meant for wall construction on “remediation projects.”

The judge ruled that just because the DHS claimed to have the authority to make certain spending decisions, it doesn’t mean it is free to do whatever it wants.

“Agencies, when afforded congressionally appropriated funds, may expend them only for the proper purpose and amount, and within the authorized period of time,” Judge Tipton wrote.

Therefore, without that discretion, the DHS’s spending decisions “run afoul” of the law, specifically violating the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

Judge Tipton wrote in his order that the way Congress wrote the law was quite specific in saying the money should go to barriers along the border.

“The central question in this case, then, is this: Has the Government obligated FY 2020 and FY 2021 funds for the ‘construction of [a] barrier system’? The answer is largely no,” the judge wrote.

The Biden administration’s new border plan, unveiled by the Department of Defense and the DHS in June 2021 and updated about a year later, contemplated spending the funds on flood control, cleanup, and environmental remediation projects. This would include adding lighting, cameras, and detection technology at locations where a physical barrier had already been constructed.

Under the plan, most border wall projects were canceled, and all the existing barrier infrastructure previously funded by the DOD was transferred to the DHS’s control.

The attorneys general of Texas and Missouri, who challenged these spending decisions, hailed the ruling on Friday.

“Today, I secured a preliminary injunction against an attempt by the Biden Administration to illegally redirect statutorily obligated funds away from the construction of a border wall,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.

“Biden acted completely improperly by refusing to spend the money that Congress appropriated for border wall construction, and even attempting to redirect those funds,” he continued. “His actions demonstrate his desperation for open borders at any cost, but Texas has prevailed.”

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey called the ruling a “huge step” in fighting to secure the southern border.

“The Biden Administration has failed to abide by the law to finish the construction of a wall along the southwest border,” Mr. Bailey said in a statement. “Joe Biden refuses to carry out his constitutionally mandated responsibilities, so we took him to court to force him to do his job. This is a huge step forward in the fight to secure our border at a key moment in our nation’s history.”

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