Tuesday October 15, 2019
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Trump’s Plan to Fund Border Wall Construction Weighs by Court

At stake is billions of dollars that would allow Trump to make major progress on a signature campaign

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FILE - A woman and children are ushered into cars by U.S. Border Patrol agents after crossing illegally over the border wall into San Diego, Calif., as seen from Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 9, 2018. VOA

President Donald Trump is moving fast to spend billions of dollars to build a wall on the Mexican border with money secured under his declaration of a national emergency, but he first must get past the courts.

On Friday, a federal judge in Oakland, California, will consider arguments in two cases that seek to block the White House from spending Defense and Treasury Department money for wall construction. California and 19 other states brought one lawsuit; the Sierra Club and Southern Border Communities Coalition, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, brought the other.

On Thursday, a federal judge in the nation’s capital will consider a bid by the U.S. House of Representatives to prevent Trump from spending any Defense Department money for a border wall.

At stake is billions of dollars that would allow Trump to make major progress on a signature campaign promise heading into his campaign for a second term.

trump's, plan, fund, border, wall
President Donald Trump is moving fast to spend billions of dollars to build a wall on the Mexican border with money secured under his declaration of a national emergency. Pixabay

The president’s adversaries say the emergency declaration was an illegal attempt to ignore Congress, which authorized far less wall spending than Trump wanted. Trump grudgingly accepted congressional approval of $1.375 billion to end a 35-day government shutdown on Feb. 15 but declared an emergency in almost the same breath. The White House says it has identified up to $8.1 billion that it could spend.

Trump’s actions “amount to a usurpation of Congress’ legislative powers in violation of bedrock separation of powers principles embedded in the Constitution,” the state attorneys general wrote.

The administration argues that the president is protecting national security interests as unprecedented numbers of Central American asylum-seeking families arrive at the U.S. border with Mexico.

“The increasing surge of migrants, the highest in over a decade, has placed a tremendous strain on the limited resources of the Department of Homeland Security and exacerbated the risks to border security, public safety, and the safety of the migrants themselves,” the Justice Department said in a court filing.

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The courtroom showdowns come amid a flurry of activity to accelerate wall construction. Kenneth Rapuano, an assistant secretary of defense, said in a court filing last month that work on the highest-priority, Pentagon-funded projects — in Yuma, Arizona, and in New Mexico — could begin as soon as May 25.

The Defense Department transferred $1 billion to border wall coffers in March and another $1.5 billion last week. Patrick Shanahan, the acting defense secretary, may decide as soon as Wednesday whether to transfer an additional $3.6 billion.

Last month, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $789 million contract to SLSCO Ltd. of Galveston, Texas, to replace 46 miles (74 kilometers) of barrier in New Mexico, paid for by Pentagon funds.

On Wednesday, Barnard Construction Co. of Bozeman, Montana, won a $141.8 million contract to replace 5 miles (8 kilometers) in Yuma and 15 miles (24 kilometers) in the Border Patrol’s El Centro, California, sector. Southwest Valley Constructors of Albuquerque, New Mexico, won a $646 million contract to replace 63 miles (101 kilometers) in the Border Patrol’s Tucson, Arizona, sector. All of those projects are funded by the Defense Department, with construction expected to begin in as little as 45 days.

trump's, plan, fund, border, wall
On Thursday, federal judge in the nation’s capital will prevent Trump from spending any Defense Department money for a border wall. Pixabay

Also this week, the Department of Homeland Security waived environmental impact and other reviews to replace wall in California and Arizona under a law that gives the secretary sweeping powers to spec construction.

The environmental waivers cover a 15-mile (24-kilometer) replacement in El Centro that is funded by the Homeland Security Department’s 2018 appropriations and was awarded in a contract to SLSCO last year. The administration said construction could begin on that project as early as Saturday.

Aside from California, states participating in the legal challenge are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. (VOA)

Next Story

Trump’s Withdrawal from West Asia Synchronizing with his “Pivot to Asia”

This, when Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping will also be circling around that issue and addressing a host of others

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Surely, Imran Khan will carry the peace message, but he will also unfurl his Jammu and Kashmir agenda before the Iranian leadership. Pixabay

When Dore Gold, one of the most powerful voices in Israel’s strategic community, raises his hands, skywards, and exclaims, “Today I feel as vulnerable as the Kurds”, who have been abandoned by Donald Trump, one fact can be cast in stone: West Asia has changed. A panic war cannot be ruled out. But war with whom? Situated in a comparable circumstance, Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, on his knees in Yemen and the Aramco compound, is flourishing the flag of peace at Tehran. But then who hit the Iranian tanker outside Jeddah? These regional conflicts will not tamely wind down; they will zig-zag their way out.

The Saudi “messenger” to Tehran, happens to be Pakistan’s Prime Minister. Surely, Imran Khan will carry the peace message, but he will also unfurl his Jammu and Kashmir agenda before the Iranian leadership. This, when Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping will also be circling around that issue and addressing a host of others. It must be clear as daylight to New Delhi that Trump’s withdrawal from West Asia is synchronizing with his “pivot to Asia”, which means expanded conflict with China. Western media’s dedicated coverage of the disturbances in Hong Kong, human rights in Xinxiang, all signal a long-term Sino-US standoff. Since the days of Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, India has been active in the “Quard” with Japan, Australia and the US. Ambiguities in the international system made it possible to play both the options – quard and bilateral relations with Beijing. But Trump is likely to be more jealous as US-China tensions rise? New Delhi will have to toss up a coin with the same image on both sides.

It is exactly 33 years ago that President Ronald Reagan and the General Secretary of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev mooted such innovative arms control ideas at Reykjavik, Iceland, that even strategist like Henry Kissinger found them unacceptably radical. And yet, when sense sank in, the intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed the next year paving the way to a changed world order. Change is in air, but of a different order.

Trump has been characteristically blunt. “The United States has spent $ eight trillion fighting in and policing the Middle East (West Asia). Thousands of our great soldiers have died or been badly wounded. Millions of people have died on the other side.”

Trump, Asia, Dore Gold
The Saudi “messenger” to Tehran, happens to be Pakistan’s Prime Minister. Pixabay

“Going into the Middle East is the worst decision ever made in the history of our country. We went to war under a false and now disproven premise: weapons of mass destruction. There were none.” This is Trump’s rationale for “slowly and carefully bringing our great soldiers and military home”. He says his focus is on the Big Picture. “USA is now greater than ever before.” That is his line for the 2020 elections.

Trump has been making allegations against his predecessors even before. Watch his interview to Jake Tapper of the CNN on the eve of the 2016 elections. He was vehement that Obama and Hillary Clinton spent millions “in Syria which, in fact, went to terrorists”. Soon after this allegation, Obama’s Defence Secretary, Ashton Carter, told a Congressional hearing before live TV cameras that a $500 million project to train militants had to be terminated because the “Jihadis” so trained had walked away with all the expensive equipment and joined some other group.

This was quite as mysterious as the origins of the Islamic State. The sudden establishment of the Islamic state in Mosul remains an uninvestigated whodunit. When the IS charged towards Baghdad in 2014, wielding the latest arms mounted on Humvees straight from the showroom, sources in Baghdad and Najaf were quite convinced that the IS was a US project.

What Erdogan has been offered is a poisoned chalice. This is clear as daylight in Trump’s own words. The tone is of malicious glee: “Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out.”

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The recipe for the countries listed above to stew in their own juices is available possibly unknowingly even in Turkish statements. The Kurdish forces Erdogan is bombing had in their custody thousands of Islamic State detainees, many of them foreigners. State Department spokesmen are on record: “The US has pressed France, Germany and other European nations to take back captured IS fighters, but they refused.” In fact Turkish sources have amplified this statement. Some 12,000 IS fighters are distributed over seven prisons in north-east Syria. Of these, 4,000 are “foreigners”, which means neither Syrian nor Iraqi. List of IS members and their families taken back by western countries is almost comical: France (18 children), US (16 adults and children), Germany (fewer than 10), Australia (8 children), Sweden (7 children) and Norway (5 children). It is in the nature of groups like the IS to slip through even well laid nets. How many IS fighters are lying low in Syria’s north is anybody’s guess. But the Kurds along the Syria-Turkey border, who kept a steady gaze on the IS will now be hopelessly distracted by the Turkish offensive. Until the other day, the US was with the Kurds. What if these IS jihadis are let loose, say, across the border into Turkey? Erdogan will have to cope with trouble makers of a more lethal make than the Syrian Kurds.

Pundits like New York Times, Thomas Friedman, see West Asia exposed to a different kind of danger as a result of US withdrawal. Ever since the Iraq-Syria border was opened, the Iranians have an easy land bridge from Tehran, Iraq, Syria to Lebanon. Friedman’s anxiety is that this “tightening of the noose around Israel” will now go unchecked because that was one of the roles the US played in the region. “This brings the Iran-Israel shadow war into the open.” By the act of pulling out, Trump has set several cats among several flocks of pigeons all over the place. (IANS)