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Federal judge allows lawsuits against border wall to proceed

A section of border wall is seen in Nogales, Ariz. A judge's ruling Thursday said President Donald Trump lawfully used an emergency declaration last year that allowed him to divert funds to the border wall. File Photo by Art Foxall/UPI
A section of border wall is seen in Nogales, Ariz. A judge's ruling Thursday said President Donald Trump lawfully used an emergency declaration last year that allowed him to divert funds to the border wall. File Photo by Art Foxall/UPI | License Photo

April 3 (UPI) -- A federal judge has ruled that President Donald Trump did not overstep his authority last year when he declared a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, but allowed two environmental suits challenging his border wall strategy to proceed.

The environmental suits said Trump's declaration, which allowed him to divert federal defense funding to build the wall, was unconstitutional because it violates a provision in the 2019 budget bill that limits money for border wall construction.

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U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden ruled late Thursday that some of the parties to the suits have a legitimate claim and allowed their challenges to proceed.

McFadden, however, ruled against their specific argument that Trump's emergency declaration was unlawfully based on drug trafficking grounds, saying that particular issue is not his to decide.

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"These policy decisions are for the political, not judicial, branches to resolve," McFadden wrote in his decision.

The judge also removed Trump as a defendant in the challenge, saying he isn't a necessary party to the complaints. However, claims can still be brought against agencies of Trump's administration.

McFadden also decided that some of the plaintiffs lack standing and dismissed them from the case. He said other groups, including a Native American tribe in Texas, "have plausibly alleged that they will likely suffer injury" and can remain in the case.

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Last summer, it was also McFadden who ruled that the U.S. House lacked standing to block Trump's emergency funding moves in court. Other federal judges have issued restraining orders to block some aspects of the president's border spending plan, concluding that the declaration threatened congressional authority over federal spending.

Thursday's decision did not determine whether diverting funds to the border wall via Trump's emergency declaration violated any laws.

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