Trump Administration Urges Judge to Dismiss ‘Political’ Border-Wall Lawsuits

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration asked a Washington federal judge to throw out a pair of lawsuits challenging the president’s national emergency declaration that he said allowed him to tap funding for his long-sought wall along the southern U.S. border.

At least five lawsuits were filed in the immediate aftermath of President Donald Trump’s February decree based on his claim that the flow of Central American migrants into the U.S. from Mexico warranted the measure, allowing him to line up $8 billion in funding for the barrier. The declaration came only after a record 35-day U.S. government shutdown, triggered by Congressional Democrats refusal to allocate $5.6 billion the president sought earlier.

“Such challenges raise political questions that courts are not equipped to answer, as courts overwhelmingly have recognized,” Justice Department lawyers said in twin filings Tuesday with U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden.

They’re the administration’s first attempts to dislodge any of the wall cases and the newest battlefronts in the political and legal war between the administration and its opponents over U.S. immigration policy. Litigation spanning the travel ban, funding for sanctuary cities, child separations, Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) and anti-asylum policies have all wound their way through the judicial system, with the government failing to defend most of its initiatives.

Central to its argument once again is the claim that courts don’t have the authority to even consider the president’s action. In Tuesday’s filings, the administration argues that the contested declaration is the latest presidential proclamation following a ”forty-year tradition of multiple presidents of both parties declaring national emergencies to address a wide range of problems.”

The plaintiffs argue Trump’s declaration is beyond his legal authority and violates the separation of powers outlined in the U.S. Constitution. They claim that since Congress declined to fund the border wall in 2017 and 2018, Trump may not usurp its power to pursue his own agenda.

These lawsuits are likely the only obstacles left between the president and his wall. Congress passed a bipartisan resolution denouncing Trump’s executive order in March, but then failed to win a super majority to override the president’s veto of that resolution.

“We expected that they would move to dismiss the case without reaching the merits,” said Allison Zieve, a lawyer with the nonprofit consumer rights’ group Public Citizen, who represents the plaintiffs. “We’re reviewing the motion now.”

Brian Segee, a lawyer with the Center for Biological Diversity which also challenged Trump’s decree, said he couldn’t immediately comment on the government’s filing.

Three more cases filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, El Paso County and 16 state attorneys general are likely to face similar challenges by the U.S. Justice Department.

The cases are Alvarez v. Trump, 19-cv-404, and Center for Biological Diversity v. Trump, 19-cv-408, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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