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U.S. states, rights groups ask court to block bid to divert $1.5 billion towards Trump's wall

U.S. states, rights groups ask court to block bid to divert $1.5 billion towards Trump's wall
FILE PHOTO: A child, resident of Ciudad Juarez, looks through the bars of a wall from the side of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in this picture taken on the side of El Paso, Texas, U.S. May 25, 2019. REUTERS / Jose Luis Gonzalez Copyright JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ(Reuters)
Copyright JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ(Reuters)
By Reuters
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By Tom Hals

(Reuters) - Civil rights groups and 20 states asked a federal judge to prevent the Trump Administration from transferring $1.5 billion that Congress had approved for the military towards building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, according to a court filing.

The request for a preliminary injunction, filed late Wednesday in Oakland, California, marks round two in what is expected to be a drawn-out fight over President Donald Trump's pledge to build a wall, which has been strenuously opposed by Democrats.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined to comment.

After failing to convince Congress to provide its requested level of wall funding earlier this year, the Trump Administration announced plans to redirect $6.7 billion that Congress had approved for the Departments of Defense and Treasury.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam of Oakland, who is weighing Wednesday's request, issued a preliminary injunction blocking the administration's initial transfer of $1 billion in funds toward wall construction.

The government has appealed that ruling. The administration asked the court on Wednesday to stay the injunction during the appeals process so that the government can begin building the wall in Arizona and Texas to stem the flow of illegal drugs.

In Friday's decision, Gilliam said the government could not use the money to build the wall because it had not been approved for that purpose by Congress, violating the separation of power principles.

As more transfers are made, the plaintiffs are expected to respond by seeking further injunctions.

The latest request seeks to block the use of $1.5 billion that was transferred by the Department of Defense in early May.

The injunctions were requested by the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, which are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as 20 states led by California and New Mexico.

Congress has approved $1.38 billion for "primary pedestrian fencing" in southern Texas, which was agreed to after a protracted battle and a government shutdown.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Bernadette Baum)

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