The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday accusing President Donald Trump of violating the Constitution by seeking to use a national emergency declaration to obtain funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The ACLU challenges Trump’s efforts to use the declaration to redirect billions of dollars appropriated by Congress for other purposes toward border wall construction. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, argues that the president cannot legally use a national emergency declaration to evade funding limits put in place by Congress.
“The declaration does not set forth any actual emergency, any use of the armed forces required to address such an emergency, or how a diversion of military construction funds is necessary to support the use of the armed forces of the United States,” the lawsuit contends, noting that the president has directed the Defense Department to reallocate funds for the wall.
The suit asks the court to bar executive branch officials from diverting Defense or Treasury funds to build a border wall.
Trump declared a national emergency on Feb. 15 after failing to gain congressional support for $5.7 billion in border wall funding. That same day, he signed a budget bill appropriating $1.375 billion for border security.
The ACLU lawsuit also mentions the president’s statement that he “didn’t need to” declare a national emergency to build the wall, but he wanted to “do it much faster.” Critics quickly predicted that statement would be used against him in litigation over his emergency declaration.
The ACLU’s filing is the fourth lawsuit challenging Trump’s national emergency. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington was the first group to file a lawsuit, arguing that the Justice Department failed to provide documents regarding Trump’s legal authority to invoke emergency powers over a border wall. The Center for Biological Diversity sued the White House, saying that a border wall would negatively impact the environment and animal populations. Sixteen states jointly sued Trump on Monday contending that his declaration is unconstitutional.