California mounts legal challenge to Donald Trump's state of emergency border wall plans

Julie Allen
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra - REUTERS

California is set to become the first state to legally challenge Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency to secure funding for a border wall, its attorney general said on Sunday.

After a failed attempt to convince Congress to sign off on his demand for $5.7 billion (£4.4 billion) to build a structure along the country's southern border with Mexico, the US president announced he would be invoking the controversial power on Friday.

By doing so, he is now theoretically able to siphon off money - up to $8 billion -  from government departments to fulfill his key campaign pledge.

But it was long expected that the move would be slowed down and possibly torpedoed by legal challenges.

Already, landowners in Texas have filed lawsuits saying it violates the Constitution and would infringe on their property rights.

On Sunday Xavier Becerra, California's attorney general, signaled the Golden State would lead the way, arguing that money directed to the wall project would mean less federal funding for vital services for emergency responses, the military and tackling drug trafficking.

A section of the border fence in Naco, Arizona, being replaces with modern barriers  Credit:  UPI / Barcroft Media

When asked whether and when California would sue the Trump administration, he replied: “Definitely and imminently. We are prepared, we knew something like this might happen.

"And with our sister state partners, we are ready to go,” he told  ABC's "This Week."

“We’re confident there are at least 8 billion ways that we can prove harm."

Other Democrat-controlled states are expected to join the action and House Democrats have said they will introduce a resolution that would block the declaration. 

Ultimately, the legal battle will probably end at the conservative-leaning Supreme Court to which Mr Trump has appointed two justices since he took office.

 Stephen Miller, a senior White House adviser, told Fox News on Sunday that the declaration would allow the administration to build “hundreds of miles” of border wall by September 2020.

“We have 120-odd miles that are already under construction or are already obligated plus the additional funds we have and then we’re going to outlay - we’re going to look at a few hundred miles.”

He also suggested the US leader would veto Congress should there be any resolution to block the emergency declaration.

"Obviously the president is going to protect his national emergency declaration. 

"This (illegal immigration) is a threat in our country … and if the president can’t defend this country, then he cannot fulfill his constitutional oath of office," he added.