Source: Martin Walsh

The Biden administration was handed another policy defeat by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday after justices remanded a case back to a lower court regarding a resumption of funding for the border wall.

The administration has been working to block additional funding for sections of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but the high court ruled that a U.S. district court in California, where a judge had previously ruled against Donald Trump’s attempt to utilize unassigned Pentagon funds for wall construction, must “consider what further proceedings are necessary and appropriate in light of the changed circumstances in this case.”

“The Supreme Court returned the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ‘with instructions to direct the District Court to vacate its judgments,’ the Supreme Court wrote in its Monday order,” Newsweek reported.

A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel let the ruling of a lower court stand, writing, “The panel affirmed the district court’s judgment holding that budgetary transfers of funds for the construction of a wall on the southern border of the United States in California and New Mexico were not authorized under the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2019.”

The appeals court also based its ruling on environmental claims made by California and New Mexico in the June 2020 affirmation of the lower court:

Concerning the injury in fact element of standing, the panel held that California and New Mexico alleged that the actions of the federal defendants will cause particularized and concrete injuries in fact to the environment and wildlife of their respective states as well as to their sovereign interests in enforcing their environmental laws.

First, the panel held that California and New Mexico each provided sufficient evidence, if taken as true, that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to conclude that both states would suffer injuries in fact to their environmental interests, and in particular, to protect endangered species within their borders.

Second, the panel also held that California and New Mexico demonstrated that border wall construction injured their quasi-sovereign interests by preventing them from enforcing their environmental laws.

“The Biden administration had argued that the Supreme Court did not need to weigh in on the border wall funding case because the project was closed down by the new administration,” added Newsweek.

Biden came into office promising to end Trump’s border wall construction, noting in a statement:

… building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution.  It is a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security. … I have determined that the declaration of a national emergency at our southern border in Proclamation 9844 of February 15, 2019 (Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Southern Border of the United States), was unwarranted. 

It shall be the policy of my Administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall. I am also directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall.

He went on to say: “The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, shall direct the appropriate officials within their respective departments to: (i) pause work on each construction project on the southern border wall, to the extent permitted by law, as soon as possible … pause immediately the obligation of funds related to the construction of the southern border wall, to the extent permitted by law.”

“In April, the U.S. Department of Defense said it was canceling border wall construction projects that were intended to proceed with funds ‘originally intended for military missions and projects,’” reported Newsweek.

It’s unclear when the 9th Circuit panel will revisit its ruling, but it seems clear the administration’s arbitrary decision to cut off funds for a project that was approved by Congress when it approved DoD funding may be an issue.