The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday declined a request from two groups seeking to prevent construction of President Donald Trump's promised wall along the U.S. -Mexico border that is being funded by $2.5 billion approved by Congress for the Pentagon. The vote was on ideological lines, with five conservatives in the majority and four liberals in dissent.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the Trump administration on behalf of Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition, has said it will seek to tear down sections of the wall that were built with the money.
Sierra Club is an environmental group.
Friday night's 5-4 decision allows construction to continue during the ongoing legal battle.
Trump, who ran for office in 2016 promising that Mexico would pay for the border wall, has obtained more than $15 billion in federal funds for his signature project, including $5 billion provided by Congress through conventional appropriations. He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. "The Court's decision to let construction continue nevertheless, I fear, may 'operat [e], in effect, as a final judgment'".
A panel of the 9th Circuit ruled last month that Trump's transfer past year of $2.5 billion in military funds to pay for border wall construction was an illegal overreach of executive authority. The president has tapped into Pentagon accounts for the remaining $10 billion, including the $2.5 billion transfer previous year that the 9th Circuit said was unlawful.
The Supreme Court had allowed the funds to be allocated in July 2019, granting an emergency request filed by the Trump administration.
The administration has since committed the money to constructing fences, roads and lighting at locations along the border identified as drug-smuggling corridors, the government said in court papers. It will begin hearing cases again in October.
"We'll be back before the Supreme Court soon to put a stop to Trump's xenophobic border wall once and for all", said ACLU lawyer Dror Ladin. "The administration has admitted that the wall can be taken down if we ultimately prevail, and we will hold them to their word and seek the removal of every mile of unlawful wall built".
"This fight is far from over and we will continue to stand alongside the ACLU and the Sierra Club to fight for our democracy and our communities that are suffering from unaccountable and harmful border policies", Vicki B. Gaubeca, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, said in a statement.