Katelyn Burns, Vox, January 14, 2020
According to a Washington Post report, the White House will use last year’s national emergency declaration to pull $3.5 billion from military counter-drug enforcement, up significantly from the $2.5 billion taken from the same program in 2019. An additional $3.2 billion will be taken from Department of Defense construction projects for additional fencing projects. The number is more than five times the amount allocated to barrier construction by Congress for 2020.
The funds transfer would bring the total amount devoted to border wall construction under Trump to $18.4 billion. So far, the administration has only completed about 101 miles of barrier construction, far short of the 450 miles Trump promised to complete by the end of this year. However, administration officials have recently begun counting miles of fencing under construction — rather than completed — as their goal metric, moving the goalposts on Trump’s promise.
The border wall was perhaps Trump’s most prominent 2016 campaign promise and the battle over border wall funding has raged since Trump’s first days. In December 2018, Trump shut down part of the government for 35 days after he refused to sign a bipartisan spending bill to fund the government in 2019. Finally, Congress compromised to give the president $1.375 billion for “existing technologies” like “bollard fencing,” far less than the $5.7 billion originally requested by the White House.
When he reopened the government — without most of the wall money he wanted — Trump got creative, declaring a national emergency in order to divert military funds to build the wall.
The Supreme Court allowed Trump’s administrative sidestep, ruling in July that a lower court’s block on $2.5 billion in military funding would be lifted, and the money could start being spent on wall construction while litigation against the move continues.
Trump’s border wall quest got another major boost last Thursday when a Fifth Circuit court of appeals panel ruled 2-1 to lift an injunction which stood in the way of a transfer of $3.6 billion in military construction funds last year for the wall. The ruling overturned a stay put into place by El Paso-based federal judge David Briones in a suit brought by the county of El Paso, Texas, and the Border Network for Human Rights.