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Court allows Trump to use $3.6 billion in military funds to build border barriers

A federal appeals court in Louisiana on Wednesday ruled the government can use $3.6 billion in military funds to construct border barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, granted the administration's request for the court to stay, or temporarily halt, a ruling made last month by a federal judge in El Paso that blocked officials from using the Pentagon funds to fulfill one of President Trump's main campaign pledges. 

Judge David Briones of the Federal District Court in El Paso in December ruled that the Trump administration's declaration of a national emergency at the southern border was unlawful. The emergency declaration, declared last February, is what Mr. Trump believes gives him the authority to divert military funds to border wall construction.

The case, one of several in which groups have challenged the administration's efforts to divert billions of dollars in military funds to pay for border wall construction, still has to be decided on the merits. Most of the Trump administration's construction of border barriers, which cover nearly 100 miles, has replaced old, dilapidated ones. To build some of the proposed new barriers, the administration will have to acquire private land through litigation.     

In its ruling on Wednesday, the conservative majority on the three-judge panel cited a Supreme Court decision last year which set aside an injunction by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and allowed the administration to use a separate allocation of military construction funds at the southern border. Judges Andrew Oldham and Edith Jones, appointees of Mr. Trump and former President Ronald Reagan, respectively, agreed to grant the administration's request. Judge Stephen Higginson, who was appointed by former President Obama, dissented. 

"I am unable to agree, without focused panel deliberation and discussion — possibly aided by dialogue with counsel — that the government presently has shown either a likelihood of success on the merits or irreparable harm in the absence of a stay," Higginson wrote in his dissent.

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