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16 states, advocacy groups sue over Trump's national emergency

By Ed Adamczyk and Darryl Coote
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16 states, advocacy groups sue over Trump's national emergency
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday said that California will be included in a multistate lawsuit opposing President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency to obtain funding for construction of a border wall. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Fifteen states have joined California to sue President Donald Trump over his declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to court documents filed Monday.

On Friday, Trump announced a national emergency so he would bypass Congress to fund a physical barrier on the United States' southern border. This would give him special powers to redirect federal money dedicated for other projects.

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Congress refused to provide Trump with the full funds he requested for a barrier as part of a spending bill passed last week. Instead, the latest offer from Congress allows $1.7 billion in border security improvements.

Trump has asked for $5.7 billion with the understanding that part of a permanent wall, covering about 128 miles, will be constructed with the funding.

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According to the court filing, the states allege the Trump administration's declaring of a national emergency due to a manufactured crisis at the border is unlawful and unconstitutional. The declaration also exceeds the power of the executive office and violates the Constitution and federal statutes.

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The suit seeks to block the emergency declaration, the construction of the wall and the diverting of state funds, it said.

"Today, on Presidents Day, we take President Trump to court to block his misuse of presidential power," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement Monday. "We're suing President Trump to stop him from unilaterally robbing taxpayer funds lawfully set aside by Congress for the people of our states."

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom called the emergency declaration "a national disgrace" in a statement Monday. He said the president in calling unlawful immigration a national emergency he was using the country's highest office "to fan the flames of natives and xenophobia."

"Our message to the White House is clear: California will not be part of this political theatre. We will see you in court," he said.  

The attorneys general from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Main, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia have joined California in its suit.

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On Sunday, Lawrence Pacheco of the Colorado Attorney General's Office announced that Colorado will be included in the multistate lawsuit.

Advocacy groups are challenging the declaration as well. A joint lawsuit was submitted over the weekend by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. It cited the constitutional separation of powers, by which only Congress can address budgetary matters, as well as an alleged environmental threat at the border.

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"Many species of animals, including endangered species, are put at risk by this project, and all alternatives that protect wildlife and the environment must be considered by law. We will continue to pursue all legal avenues to assure the law is upheld," said the Animal Legal Defense Fund's Stephen Wells in a statement.

Human rights advocacy organizations have also announced lawsuits against the declaration, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Citizen and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.

The Public Citizen suit, filed Friday, said "plaintiffs include three landowners in South Texas who were informed that the federal government would seek to build a wall on their properties if money were available in 2019 for construction of a border wall. The construction of a wall pursuant to the declaration threatens an imminent invasion of their privacy and the quiet enjoyment of their land, both during construction and after. Plaintiffs also include a non-profit environmental organization in Texas, whose members' ability to observe wildlife will be impaired by the construction of a border wall and the resulting destruction of critical habitat."

Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
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On Monday, protesters gathered in cities across the country -- including New York City, Washington, D.C., Newark, N.J., and Fort Worth, Texas -- demonstrated against the declaration.

Many held up signs with hashtag "#FakeTrumpEmergency."

"There are plenty of real emergencies to invest our tax dollars in," Kelly Quirk, a member of the progressive group Soma Action, told WPIX-TV in New York,

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