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POTUS declares national emergency to "build the wall" along the southern U.S. border

  1. Date Announced

    Feb. 15, 2019

    After failing to secure border wall money that President Trump sought from Congress, the President issues a proclamation declaring a national emergency to build the wall, diverting funds that had been appropriated to DOD for other building projects and for drug interception at the border. [ID #375]

    See Biden administration action below.

    View Policy Document
  2. Effective Date of Change

    Feb. 15, 2019
  3. Subsequent Action

    February 15, 2019

    Alvarez v. Trump (D.D.C.): On Feb. 15, 2019, Public Citizen, representing a Texas environmental group and three Texas landowners who were told by the government that it would seek to build a border wall on their properties if money was available in 2019, brought suit, challenging Trump's declaration of a national emergency. The lawsuit has since been dismissed by Public Citizen because the funds obtained via the declaration will not be used to build physical barriers in the areas where their clients are located

    Public Citizen lawsuit
  4. Subsequent Action

    February 15, 2019

    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington vs. Department of Justice (D.D.C.): CREW is suing the Justice Department not turning over legal opinions, communications, and other documents related to Trump's national emergency declaration. In January 2019, CREW filed a Freedom of Information Act requests for documents from the Office of Legal Counsel, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense relevant to discussions about a national emergency declaration. The lawsuit requests that the Justice Department "immediately" provide the requested records.

    CREW lawsuit
  5. Subsequent Action

    February 18, 2019

    California et al. vs. Trump (N.D. Cal.): On Feb. 18, 2019, sixteen states including California and New York sued President Trump in a constitutional challenge to his declaration of a national emergency. The suit, filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco, argues that the president does not have the power to divert funds for constructing a wall along the Mexican border because it is Congress that controls spending. For the Ninth Circuit's June 26, 2020 opinion, see

    California v. Trump lawsuit
  6. Subsequent Action

    February 19, 2019

    Center for Biological Diversity vs. Trump (D.D.C.): The Center for Biological Diversity along with several other environmental groups challenges the idea that the situation along the border is an emergency and argues that Trump unlawfully circumvented Congress to fund his border wall. The complaint also alleges the border wall would harm the environment. In April 2020, the district court denied a government motion to dismiss:

    Center for Biological Diversity Lawsuit
  7. Subsequent Action

    February 19, 2019

    Sierra Club v. Trump (N.D. Cal.): The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the plaintiffs, argues that the declaration was "made solely out of disagreement with Congress's decision about the proper funding level, location, and timetable for constructing a border wall." It also alleges that the wall would negatively impact the environment and communities along the border. For case filings leading up to the Supreme Court's denial of a motion to lift stay on July 31, 2020, see

    Sierra Club v. Trump
  8. Subsequent Action

    February 20, 2019

    El Paso County v. Trump (W.D. Tex.): The lawsuit seeks an injunction to block Trump’s national emergency declaration from the viewpoint of those counties at the frontline of the border "crisis." For the Sept. 2, 2020 petition for writ of certiorari before judgment, see

    **Litigation is listed for informational purposes and is not comprehensive. For the current status of legal challenges, check other sources.**

    El Paso County lawsuit
  9. Subsequent Action

    February 26, 2019

    The Democratic-led House approved by a 245-182 vote a resolution on Tuesday that would terminate President Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border

    House Passes Resolution To Block Trump's National Emergency Declaration
  10. Subsequent Action

    March 14, 2019

    Rio Grande International Study Center vs. Trump (D. D.C.): The complaint alleges that a border wall would interrupt scientific research in the region “and other programs,” as well as harm the environment. For the district court's April 2020 ruling on the government's motion to dismiss, see

    Rio Grande International Study Center lawsuit
  11. Subsequent Action

    March 15, 2019

    On March 15, 2019, Trump vetoes bipartisan congressional resolution to reject declaration of a national emergency. For second veto on October 15, 2019, see

    Trump Issues First Veto After Congress Rejects Border Emergency
  12. Subsequent Action

    March 15, 2019

    On March 14, 2019, the Senate voted 59-41 to revoke President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration.

    Senate Votes to Revoke Emergency Declaration
  13. Subsequent Action

    March 26, 2019

    On March 26, 2019, the House failed to override President Trump's veto of legislation blocking his national emergency declaration at the border. Fourteen Republicans joined all Democrats on the 248-181 vote. The courts will now decide whether Trump's declaration will move forward. Democrats are expected to join prior lawsuits or file a new lawsuit against the emergency declaration.

    Politico: House fails to override Trump veto on border emergency
  14. Subsequent Action

    March 26, 2019

    Democratic Representative Adam Smith, the committee’s chairman, said the panel did not approve the proposed use of Pentagon funds. His stance could end up being symbolic, as the Pentagon insists it has the authority to shift the money. However, it could prompt Congress to change the law to prevent presidents from taking similar action in the future.

    The House Committee on Armed Services denies reprogramming request to transfer $1.0 billion for border wall construction
  15. Subsequent Action

    May 6, 2019

    On April 5, 2019, Members of the House of Representatives filed a lawsuit against Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and other members of President Trump's administration in response to the President's emergency declaration in an attempt to use other funds for the border wall. They asked the D.C. District Court to rule that the House has standing to pursue its suit against the current administration's attempts to reallocate funds to the border wall that Congress has refused to fund. For the DC Circuit Court of Appeals' Sept. 25, 2020 opinion reversing the district court's conclusion that the House lacked standing, see

    House Standing Lawsuit
  16. Subsequent Action

    October 19, 2020

    Supreme Court grants cert in Sierra Club v. Trump and California v. Trump cases. Oral argument expected in Feb. 2021. See SCOTUS Docket No. 20-138.

  17. Biden Administration Action

    January 20, 2021

    Thus Biden administration policy terminates the Trump-era policy identified in this entry.

    On January 21, 2021, President Biden issued a proclamation terminating the declared emergency with respect to the Southern border. This proclamation also indicates that a review will determine how to redirect funds diverted for wall construction.

    Proclamation on Termination of Emergency with Respect to the Southern Border and Redirection of Border Wall Funds


Trump declares national emergency on southern border in bid to build wall

White House officials plan to use $8 billion to build new fencing that they believe will block or discourage a wide range of immigrants. Of that money, $1.375 billion was approved by Congress on Thursday, and it can be used for 55 miles of “pedestrian fencing” in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. The White House plans to use $600 million from the Treasury Department’s forfeiture funds account, which contains money seized by the federal government from a range of illicit activities. An additional $2.5 billion would be redirected from a Pentagon program for countering drug activities, and a final $3.6 billion would be moved from military construction accounts. It’s that final pot of money that White House officials said required the national emergency declaration.

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