Twenty states file motion to block Trump border wall funding

Meanwhile, in another shot at Mexico, Trump says he could impose an economic penalty to counter drug smuggling.

    US Customs and Border Protection replacing a small section of US-Mexico border with new wall construction near Mexicali, Mexico [Jorge Duenes/Reuters]
    US Customs and Border Protection replacing a small section of US-Mexico border with new wall construction near Mexicali, Mexico [Jorge Duenes/Reuters]

    As many as 20 US states have filed a motion to block President Donald Trump's method of funding a border wall by diverting federal funds through a national emergency declaration, the New York state attorney general has said.

    "This wall is unnecessary, and an abuse of power that will take away resources that could be used to help Americans across our nation," New York Attorney General Letitia James said on Twitter on Friday.

    The states filed a lawsuit in February after Trump declared a national emergency to help build a border wall that was a signature of his 2016 campaign for president. The motion for a preliminary injunction to block Trump's effort that was filed late on Thursday formalised that request.

    Separately on Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House of Representatives will sue to block President Trump's transfer of money to pay for the wall.

    "The President's action clearly violates the Appropriations Clause by stealing from appropriated funds, an action that was not authorized by constitutional or statutory authority," Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, said in a statement.

    She said a congressional legal advisory group voted to authorise the lawsuit.

    Trump's order would allow him to spend money on the wall that Congress appropriated for other purposes. Congress declined to fulfil his request for $5.7bn to help build the wall this year.

    In a stinging rebuke, the Democratic-controlled House passed legislation to terminate the emergency Trump declared at the US-Mexico border but Trump issued the first veto of his presidency in March to block that measure.

    "The House will once again defend our Democracy and our Constitution, this time in the courts," Pelosi said in a statement. "No one is above the law or the Constitution, not even the President."

    However, US Attorney General William Barr said the president's emergency declaration was legal.

    Trump heads to border

    Meanwhile, on Friday, Trump headed to California in a renewed push to make border security a central campaign issue for his 2020 re-election. 

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    Trump, talking to reporters as he left the White House, denied that he changed his mind about shutting down the border with Mexico, a threat he backed off on Thursday. Trump said he reversed course because he saw Mexico get tougher in stopping migrants from moving north.

    "I never changed my mind at all," the president claimed, as he pushed Congress act. "I may shut it down at some point."

    Though Trump, who has pulled a series of about-faces in recent days, walked away from this threat to close the border, he still intends to highlight conditions at the boundary with Mexico.

    He was heading to the Southern California town of Calexico to meet local law enforcement officials and to tour a section of recently rebuilt fencing.

    Trump took to Twitter earlier on Friday to claim that he could revive his threat to shut the border, a move that fellow Republicans warned would have a devastating economic effect.

    "If for any reason Mexico stops apprehending and bringing the illegals back to where they came from, the U.S. will be forced to Tariff at 25% all cars made in Mexico and shipped over the Border to us. If that doesn't work, which it will, I will close the Border," Trump tweeted.

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    "I am looking at an economic penalty for the 500 Billion Dollars in illegal DRUGS that are shipped and smuggled through Mexico and across our Southern Border. Over 100,00 Americans die each year, sooo many families destroyed!" he added. 

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 70,000 people in the US died from drug overdose in 2017, which includes deaths by opioids and heroin.

    Although Trump has repeatedly linked the issues of immigration and drug smuggling as he tries to tighten border security, much of the drug trade is not carried out by migrants but by professional crime gangs.

    Most drugs that do come via Mexico enter through official ports of entry, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. Synthetic opioid fentanyl is shipped from China and Mexico, according to US officials. China recently announced it would begin regulating all fentanyl-related drugs as a class of controlled substances -a move US officials applauded. 

    The southern border is nearly 3,200km long and already has over 1,000km of different types of barriers, including short vehicle barricades and tall, steel fences that go up to over nine metres. Most of the fencing was built during the administration of George W Bush, and there have been updates and maintenance throughout other administrations.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies