CHN: Trump Administration Plans to Divert Money from the Pentagon to the Border Wall, Again

The Trump Administration plans to divert an additional $7.2 billion from the Pentagon to border wall construction, according to reports from the Washington Post. This would be more than five times the $1.375 billion Congress appropriated for a wall for FY20, and it would be in addition to the $6.7 billion the Administration announced in 2019 it would divert from the Pentagon and the Department of the Treasury. This would bring the total amount of taxpayer dollars allocated to the border wall to more than $18 billion under President Trump. The White House has not confirmed the plan, which drew bipartisan criticism.

A federal district court in Texas ruled in December that the White House broke the law by diverting to wall construction $3.6 billion that Congress had appropriated for military construction projects. But earlier this month, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans lifted the injunction, saying the money could be used for the wall while the legal challenges are pending.

Senate Democrats have vowed to again force a vote on termination of the national emergency declaration that President Trump signed on Feb. 15, 2019, which allows him to move the funds. Congress has voted twice since then to terminate Trump’s declaration and end his transfer authority, but Trump has vetoed the legislation, and Congress has been unable to secure enough votes to override his veto. An attempt to repeal the President’s transfer authority via the FY20 spending bills also fell short.

In addition, there is speculation that the Trump Administration may request additional funds for the Pentagon for military operations in the Middle East. In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, top Democratic senators said such a proposal “would make no sense if the very same funds are to be raided for further wall construction.”

Two court decisions provided other immigration news. On January 27, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to end the nationwide injunction that was preventing the Trump Administration from implementing its broad definition of “public charge” in determining whether immigrants can either enter the country or, if present, receive a green card. This means that while the lawsuit against this policy continues its path through lower courts, the Administration can deny entrance or permission to work to immigrants if they have made use of benefits programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, or public housing, and would exclude immigrants with low incomes. Even the threat of this policy has caused many immigrant families to stop making use of benefits despite their eligibility for them, for fear they will lose legal status.

In addition, a federal judge on Jan. 15 in Maryland temporarily blocked an executive order by President Trump that allows state and local officials to turn away refugees from resettling in their areas. The executive order would have required states and municipalities to give written consent before refugees could be resettled. Advocates sued to block the order, saying it undermines existing law allowing refugees to resettle within the U.S. NPR reported that more than 40 governors have formally said they would welcome refugees, while Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said the state would reject any new refugees.

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