Capitol Alert

With Trump at border, California launches fight to block billions in wall funding

‘Donald Trump, we’ll see you in court:’ Gavin Newsom announces California will sue over border wall emergency declaration

Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Feb. 15, 2019 that California will sue President Donald Trump over national emergency declaration for U.S.-Mexico border wall.
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Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Feb. 15, 2019 that California will sue President Donald Trump over national emergency declaration for U.S.-Mexico border wall.

While President Donald Trump visited the Southern California town of Calexico to rally support for border security, Gov. Gavin Newsom and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra moved Friday to block the president from diverting funds to build a border wall.

The two California leaders asked a judge in the Northern District of California to prohibit the Trump administration from redirecting $1.6 billion in federal funds to finance what the attorney general said “was never meant to be used for a border wall.”

Becerra’s request for a preliminary injunction is part of a lawsuit the state filed in February challenging Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the Mexico border. Becerra’s motion is scheduled for a hearing in May.

The emergency declaration allows the Trump administration to redirect $6.7 billion in federal funds from the Treasury and Defense departments to build more barriers on the Mexico border. Congress denied the president funding for the project.

“Congress holds the power of the purse, yet President Trump’s attempt to buck Congress to build his wall without funding approval is a threat to our Democratic institutions,” Becerra said at a press conference.

Meanwhile, at the border on Friday, Trump characterized the federal immigration system as overwhelmed by a recent surge of people from Central America attempting to enter the U.S. and seeking asylum.

The system is full,” Trump said. “Can’t take you anymore. Whether it’s asylum. Whether it’s anything you want. It’s illegal immigration. Can’t take you anymore.”

He was joined by California Republican Reps. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, Tom McClintock of Elk Grove and Doug LaMalfa of Richvale. Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims also participated in a border security roundtable with the president.

“An uncontrolled border directly affects our local communities,” Mims said.

The Border Patrol has apprehended 136,150 migrants on the Mexico border since October, up from 33,100 over a comparable period last year, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

As Trump departed Washington on his way to the California border, he told reporters that “they should get rid of the whole asylum system” and “get rid of judges” in immigration cases.

“We can’t have a court case,” he said, “every time somebody steps their foot on the ground.”

That drew a sharp response from Newsom, who said America has long been “a safe haven for people fleeing tyranny, oppression and violence. His words show a total disregard of the Constitution, our justice system, and what it means to be an American.”

California’s latest attempt to block Trump from bypassing Congress to build new border barriers comes as Newsom prepares to travel to El Salvador this weekend for his first international trip as governor.

Newsom says he intends to learn about what drives people to migrate from Central America to the United States and how California can help with problems facing El Salvador, where a vast majority of migrants fleeing north to claim asylum in the U.S. come from.

The trip is part of Newsom’s effort to contrast himself with Trump, who wants to crack down on immigration over the country’s border with Mexico. Newsom has blasted Trump’s immigration views and advanced state policies aimed at helping migrants. One of the first bills he signed as governor allocated money to aid asylum seekers.

Trump’s emergency declaration allows him to use funds for border wall construction that had originally been allocated for military construction and anti-drug trafficking efforts.

Becerra argued that Trump’s actions violate the U.S. Constitution because they “usurp Congress’ appropriation powers,” ignore the National Environmental Policy Act and lack statutory authority on the grounds that the government cannot adequately justify the diversion of money.

“Any crisis at the border is of President Trump’s own making,” Becerra said. “Whether out of ignorance, cruelty, or a deliberate and self-fulfilling agenda, Trump’s policies exacerbate any issues at our border. Since taking office, he has created chaos for immigrants seeking safety and security.”

Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.

Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. Before joining The Bee, she reported in Sacramento for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times. She grew up in California and is a graduate of Northwestern University.

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