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Trump Suffers Two Legal Defeats on Immigration and Border Policies

Yuval Rosenberg

The Trump administration suffered a pair of legal defeats on major immigration policies Friday, as a federal judge in Texas ruled that the president acted unlawfully in declaring a national emergency to secure funds for a border wall and a federal judge in New York temporarily blocked the administration’s “public charge” rule tying immigrants’ legal status to their use of government benefits.

Trump National Emergency Ruled ‘Unlawful’

U.S. District Court Judge David Briones ruled that the president’s February 15 declaration of a national emergency overstepped his authority by seeking to divert more funds toward barrier construction than Congress had appropriated. “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,” Politico reports.

The ruling applies only to some $3.6 billion in military construction funds the administration is seeking to divert toward barrier construction, not to the $2.5 billion the administration is tapping from other Defense Department money or the $600 million it is shifting from the Treasury Department’s asset forfeiture fund. The Supreme Court in July lifted a lower court ruling blocking the Trump administration from using the $2.5 billion in disputed Pentagon funds to construct fencing along the border with Mexico.

Briones’s ruling did not specify what injunction he would impose. Instead, the judge gave the plaintiffs in the case — El Paso County, Texas, and Border Network for Human Rights — 10 days to propose specifics and then five days for the government to respond.

“Today’s ruling vindicates the Founders’ wisdom and confirms that the president is not a king, and that he cannot override Congress’s power to decide how to appropriate funds,” said Kristy Parker, a lawyer for Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit that represented the plaintiffs.

Read more about the national emergency ruling at NBC News.

Judge: New Public Charge Rule ‘Repugnant to the American Dream’

In the other major immigration ruling Friday, District Court Judge George Daniels issued a temporary nationwide injunction blocking the administration from enforcing new rules, set to take effect October 15, that would make it harder for immigrants to get green cards if officials determined they would likely use government benefits including Medicaid, food stamps, welfare or public housing vouchers.

“Defendants do not articulate why they are changing the public charge definition, why this new definition is needed now, or why the definition set forth in the rule — which has absolutely no support in the history of U.S. immigration law — is reasonable,” he wrote. “The rule is simply a new agency 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. Immigrants have always come to this country seeking a better life for themselves and their posterity. With or without help, most succeed."

In a separate ruling on Friday, a district court judge in San Francisco reportedly said the administration could not enforce the public charge rule within the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, defended the new rule. "An objective judiciary will see that this rule lies squarely within long-held existing law," Cuccinelli said on Twitter. "The public charge regulation defines this law to ensure those seeking to come or stay in the U.S. can successfully support themselves financially and will not rely on public benefits as they seek opportunity here."

Read more about the public charge ruling at NPR or The New York Times.

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