The Supreme Court has vacated a lower court ruling prohibiting the federal government from diverting funds from the military to construct the U.S.–Mexico border wall, sending the case back to the lower court for review.
During his administration, then-President Donald Trump had sought to transfer money from the Department of Defense toward the construction of a U.S.–Mexico border wall after Congress rejected his request for more funding. But President Joe Biden canceled the Trump-era emergency declaration when he took office and returned the unspent funds to the Pentagon.
The Supreme Court’s Oct. 4 decision means that the justices agreed to take the appeal and vacated a previous federal district judge’s ruling.
“The District Court should consider what further proceedings are necessary and appropriate in light of the changed circumstances in this case,” the justices said in a brief order. Biden had signed an executive order on Jan. 20 prohibiting border wall construction.
The Sierra Club, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and others had previously challenged the Trump-era wall order, challenging Trump’s emergency declaration to divert the funds. A district court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals have both ruled that Trump acted improperly.
“Today’s order comes after the government conceded that the Trump wall was wasteful and destructive, and returns the case to the district court so that Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition can seek relief for the damage the wall has already inflicted,” Dror Ladin, an attorney at the ACLU’s National Security Project, told The Hill. The groups also want the administration to remove the wall, saying that the structure disrupts wildlife and damages protected plants.
In the case, at issue was about $3.6 billion in funding that the Biden administration has since diverted to about 60 military construction projects.
In February, the Supreme Court also agreed to a Biden administration request to cancel arguments on a separate case that challenged the diversion of about $2.5 billion in military funds that were used for the wall construction.
“The President has directed the Executive Branch to undertake an assessment of ‘the legality of the funding and contracting methods used to construct the wall,'” the administration wrote to the court.
In recent weeks, the Biden administration has come under increasing criticism for its handling of border security and a surge in illegal immigration along the U.S.–Mexico border.
Thousands of illegal aliens of Haitian origin created a makeshift encampment underneath a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, in late September. Later, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas admitted that about 12,000 of the Haitians were released into the interior United States with pending court dates.
The crisis triggered calls from Republicans and even some Democrats to restart the construction of the border wall, which was a major campaign promise of Trump’s during his 2016 presidential campaign.