Supreme Court will decide future of President Trump's border wall with Mexico

Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
·2 min read

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide if the Trump administration must stop building portions of the border wall with Mexico.

But the case is unlikely to be heard before Jan. 20 next year, and if President Donald Trump loses re-election next month, a Democratic administration headed by former vice president Joe Biden could stop construction on its own.

The high court has twice allowed the wall project to continue despite federal court rulings that the administration lacked authority to spend the money. In July, when the justices last acted by a 5-4 vote, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer complained in dissent that it amounted to a final victory during Trump's first term.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in June that the administration went around Congress by transferring $2.5 billion in military salary and pension funds to the border wall project after Congress refused.

“Everyone knows that Trump failed to get Congress to fund his xenophobic wall obsession, and every lower court that has considered the case has found that the president has no authority to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on construction,” said Dror Ladin, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

More: Trump proposes $2B for 82 miles of border wall, with goal of completing 400 miles by end of 2020

More: Appeals court approves diverting $3.6B in military construction funds for Donald Trump border wall plan

The dispute, which has divided the nation in much the same way a wall would divide the U.S. and Mexico, dates back almost two years to a budget battle between Trump and Congress that led to a five-week partial government shutdown. That fight ended when Democrats agreed to spend a fraction of what the president wanted.

A Border Patrol unit drives by the construction site of a new section of the border wall between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico on August 17, 2020.
A Border Patrol unit drives by the construction site of a new section of the border wall between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico on August 17, 2020.

Early in 2019, Trump declared a "national emergency" in order to redirect funds from other federal agencies to the Department of Homeland Security. Among the pots of money was $2.5 billion in Pentagon funds that was to go toward building about 80 miles of barriers in California, Arizona and New Mexico. Most of that now has been built.

The Justice Department had urged the Supreme Court to hear the case, which it called "a matter of exceptional national importance." Had the justices refused, construction would have been forced to end.

The ACLU, which represents the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition in the lawsuit, has said it would seek to tear down sections of the wall if it wins the case. If Biden wins election next month, his administration could do the same.

More: Supreme Court will rule on Trump administration policy forcing asylum seekers to remain in Mexico

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Border wall: Supreme Court to rule on Donald Trump's trademark project