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As Trump Betrays Our Values and the Constitution, Federal Courts Stand Up for Both. Will the Supreme Court?

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Courts deal multiple blows to Trump’s ‘policy of exclusion in search of a justification.

As Trump’s unilateralism and nativism go into overdrive, a series of court rulings offer a reminder why the judicial branch is an essential backstop for a different vision of the country. Since last Friday, five federal courts have ruled against the Trump public charge rule, while a federal judge in Texas ruled that Trump’s raiding of military construction projects to fund border wall construction was unlawful.

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice: “President Trump is betraying our values and the Constitution. Thankfully so far, federal courts are stepping up at critical moments to serve as an essential defender of both. The Trump administration’s relentless efforts to dehumanize immigrants and refugees has met the checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution, and at least this week, the checks and balances are winning. Five different judges ruled the public charge rules crossed legal boundaries and another ruled against Trump’s funding end run of Congress to build his wall. While the President does not seem to have any internal guardrails to limit his erratic, impulsive and damaging decisions, the federal courts have been able to serve as an independent check on his worst instincts. However, the strength of the lower courts could very easily fall to the whims of the Supreme Court if the court continues to be just another political arm of the Trump Administration.”

See below for key details:

Five federal judges have preliminary enjoined the Trump public charge rule, which was set to go into effect today

  • New York: “Judge Daniels called the rule a ‘policy of exclusion in search of a justification.’ It is repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility.”
  • Washington: “U.S. District Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson issued a nationwide injunction ruling that DHS had ‘not cited any statute, legislative history, or other resource that supports the interpretation that Congress has delegated to DHS the authority to expand the definition of who is inadmissible as a public charge or to define what benefits undermine, rather than to promote, the stated goal of achieving self-sufficiency.’”
  • California: “U.S. Judge Phyllis Hamilton found ‘the plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits, for numerous reasons.’”
  • Maryland: U.S. District Court Judge Paul W. Grimm “concluded that CASA was likely to prevail on the merits of its claim that the new rule is “not in accordance with law” because it is contrary to dictionary definitions of the term “public charge,” congressional intent, and federal court and executive branch precedent.”
  • Illinois: “U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman provided a long legal explanation for his decision, writing that ‘this case has important policy implications, and the competing policy views held by parties … but let there be no mistake: The court’s decision today rests not one bit on policy.’ Feinerman continued by clearly identifying his role in this argument. ‘It is Congress’s job to enact policy and it is this Court’s job to follow the policy Congress has prescribed.’”

Federal judge in Texas blocks Trump’s effort to fund border wall construction by raiding military funding

In a lawsuit brought by Border Network for Human Rights, U.S. District Judge David Briones ruled Trump’s effort to divert more than $6 billion that Congress provided for military projects is unlawful. 

Another federal judge ruled against President Donald Trump’s unorthodox plan to use billions of dollars in federal funds to extend the wall on the Mexican border, despite Congress’ refusal to appropriate money for that purpose.

El Paso, Texas-based U.S. District Court Judge David Briones’ Friday decision not only rejected the funding scheme, but went further than past rulings by specifically declaring “unlawful” an emergency proclamation Trump issued in February seeking to unlock money to fulfill one of his key campaign promises.

Briones said Congress made clear in a January budget measure ending a partial government shutdown that border wall funding was being denied, beyond $1.3 billion for upgrades of existing barriers.

‘The Congressional language in the [bill] reveals Congress’s intent to limit the border barrier funding,’ wrote the judge, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton.

Whether the judge’s decision will actually take effect is far from clear, because in July the Supreme Court stayed a ruling from federal courts in California that blocked funding for border wall expansion in California and Arizona.

The rationale for the high court’s action was somewhat murky, but it suggested that a majority of the justices believed the plaintiffs in that suit — an environmental group and a border communities organization— did not to have the legal right to enforce a Congressional budget rider.