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Trump’s Border Wall Obsession Comes at Direct Cost to COVID-19 Containment and Response

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Eight State Attorneys General Draw Attention and File Legal Action Against Trump Effort to Raid National Guard Funds for Wall Construction

The national effort against COVID-19 should be our singular focus during these trying times. Yet President Trump’s border wall obsession continues, taking away resources and personnel that could be critical to containing this epidemic.  A Newsweek story by Chantal Da Silva reminds us that the administration “appears to have overseen the construction of dozens of miles of President Donald Trump’s border wall since the first case of coronavirus was reported in the United States.” Making matters worse, the accompanying funds and personnel directed toward border wall construction are coming at the expense of pandemic containment and response efforts.

As a result, the Attorneys General from eight states (California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Virginia) filed a motion yesterday calling for “an immediate permanent injunction” against the Trump administration’s diversion of $3.8 billion for the border wall, raided from appropriated military budgets by the Trump administration for the National Guard and others who may be helpful in the Covid-19 crisis. As a press release from the office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra states:

More than 20 percent, $890 million, of the diverted taxpayer funds had been allocated to National Guard units across the country for the purchase of equipment critical to responding to natural disasters and other emergencies. The coalition [of state Attorneys General] argues that an immediate permanent injunction is necessary so that the National Guard is fully equipped to protect communities during emergencies, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

‘While National Guard units across the country are undertaking critical missions to protect our communities from the spread of COVID-19, the Trump Administration is attempting to cheat the National Guard out of hundreds of millions of dollars that Congress intended to benefit the States,’ said Attorney General Becerra. ‘This current crisis is a real national emergency – and the National Guard is on the frontlines. We continue to use every tool at our disposal to prevent the Trump Administration’s illegal diversion of funds to build his unauthorized wall at the border.’

… The funds were originally appropriated for the states’ National Guard units to enable them to provide public safety support in times of emergencies, including natural disasters like wildfires and public health crises such as the current pandemic. For example, the equipment sought by the California National Guard would support emergency care that could ‘significantly improve patients’ chances of survival’ during disaster relief operations. Given the current national emergency, it is more important than ever to stop the Trump Administration’s illegal actions to fund an unauthorized wall at the border.

According to Pili Tobar, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:

The border wall has always been a stupid, offensive, and wasteful idea that is all about Trump’s ego and re-election campaign, but the notion of moving forward with the wall construction at this critical moment is unconscionable. All of us should be singularly focused on pandemic response and containment efforts, but Trump is refusing to budge on his wall obsession and related plans to divert funds and personnel that could be better used to help in our state and national effort against COVID-19. The state Attorneys General are right to draw attention and seek legal action against this example of monstrously misplaced priorities. When America can no longer count on the President to set national priorities, thank God for state and local officials who are keeping their eye on the task at hand.