Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday told congressional officials he plans to divert $3.6 billion in military construction money and use it to build 175 miles of wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
According to a report in The Washington Post, the Trump administration plans to use the newly diverted military construction money specifically on “11 wall projects in Arizona, California, and Texas.” The border between the U.S. and Mexico stretches 1,954 miles, per the International Boundary and Water Commission.
Earlier this year, Congress decided against giving the Trump administration the almost $5.7 billion in funds he was seeking in order to fund the border wall with Mexico, instead offering almost $1.4 billion. Trump then declared a national emergency at the border, giving himself authority to divert funds from other parts of the government to deal with the emergency. The declaration is being challenged in the courts.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) criticized Esper’s decision.
"This decision will harm already planned, important projects intended to support our service members at military installations in New York, across the United States, and around the world," Schumer said. "The president is trying to usurp Congress’s exclusive power of the purse and loot vital funds from our military. Robbing the Defense Department of much-needed funds is an affront to our service members and Congress will strongly oppose any funds for new wall construction.”
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also denounced the move.
“This administration is trying to circumvent Congressional authority and this ill-advised attempt should be legally challenged and struck down by the courts," Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.
The ACLU announced that it will ask a judge to block use of the funds as part of an ongoing lawsuit challenging the border wall
“The fact that the government sat on these so-called ‘emergency funds’ for seven months further confirms that this is nothing but an unlawful power grab," ACLU attorney Dror Ladin said. "We’ll be back in court very soon to block Trump’s latest effort to raid military funds for his xenophobic wall.”