16 states are suing Trump for declaring a national emergency over his border wall: 'A constitutional crisis of his own making'

President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden at the White House to declare a national emergency in order to build a wall along the southern border, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
  • Sixteen states filed a lawsuit to challenge President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration, which he made to access extra funding for his border wall.
  • The emergency declaration last Friday allows Trump to divert around $6 billion from other federal budgets. It came after Congress approved $1.357 billion for the wall, far less than he asked for.
  • The states - all but one of which have a Democratic governor - say that Trump does not have grounds to declare an emergency, and that his declaration is unconstitutional.
  • Trump himself said last week that he "didn't need to" declare a national emergency but did so "to get [the wall] done faster."

Sixteen US states are jointly suing President Donald Trump's administration over Trump's declaration of a national emergency to unlock funds for his border wall.

The 16-state coalition, led by California, filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court in San Francisco on Monday.Advertisement

The suit alleges that Trump cannot declare a national emergency because he has insufficient grounds. It says his claim that illegal immigration at the US-Mexico border constitutes a crisis is unfounded.

Trump has repeatedly referred to the situation at the border as "a crisis" and "an invasion."

The states involved in the lawsuit are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia.

All those states have Democratic governors, apart from Maryland, which has a Democratic attorney general.

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Last Friday Trump declared a national emergency in order to unilaterally build barriers along significant portions of the United States-Mexico border. It came after Congress granted him $1.375 billion for barrier construction, less than a quarter of the $5.7 billion he originally requested.Advertisement

Trump's declaration, under the National Emergencies Act, would allow him to take some $6.1 billion from Title 10 funding for the armed forces.

This would be made up of $2.5 billion under Department of Defense funds for counter-drug activities, up to $3.6 billion from Pentagon military construction projects, and $601 million from the Treasury's forfeiture fund.

Read more: Trump could tap the military's construction budget to build a border wall - here's what projects could be affectedAdvertisement

The states behind the lawsuit said that Trump's declaration of a national border crisis was fabricated, and that the emergency declaration and diversion of funds is unconstitutional and unlawful.

"President Trump has veered the country toward a constitutional crisis of his own making," the lawsuit said.

The president himself said during his national emergency declaration last Friday: "I didn't need to do this. But I'd rather do it much faster ... I just want to get it done faster."Advertisement

The states said in the lawsuit that Trump had been calling for a wall along the US-Mexico border since at least August 2014, and that it had been a major talking point throughout the 2016 presidential election and other campaign rallies.

They added that the reasons Trump gave to justify a wall - that it would prevent drugs, gang members, human traffickers, and unauthorized immigrants committing crimes from entering the US - are unfounded.

"The salient facts regarding the ostensible 'crisis' that President Trump repeatedly invoked in these numerous statements have not significantly changed since his inauguration as President in January 2017," the lawsuit said.Advertisement

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In order to get a judge to hear the dispute in court, the 16 states also have to show that they will suffer from the national emergency declaration.The lawsuit said that the redirection of funding from military construction projects located in some of the states would damage their economies and affect National Guard operations.Advertisement

California and New Mexico also said in the lawsuit that the construction of a wall on their borders "will cause irreparable environmental damage".

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Xavier Becerra, California's attorney general, said in a Monday statement: "President Trump treats the rule of law with utter contempt. He knows there is no border crisis, he knows his emergency declaration is unwarranted, and he admits that he will likely lose this case in court."Advertisement

California Governor Gavin Newsom also said: "President Trump is manufacturing a crisis and declaring a made-up 'national emergency' in order to seize power and undermine the Constitution."

"This 'emergency' is a national disgrace," he added. "Rather than focusing on fighting the real vulnerabilities facing Americans, the President is using the powers of America's highest office to fan the flames of nativism and xenophobia."

A number of watchdog groups are also suing, or planning to sue, Trump over the national emergency declaration. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a lawsuit against him four hours after the declaration.Advertisement

The American Civil Liberties Union and Protect Democracy, a non-partisan watchdog group, are expected to file separate lawsuits against Trump's emergency declaration this week, The New York Times reported.

Read the full lawsuit here.