Border wall opponents in court to stop construction

A federal appeals court heard arguments Tuesday on a bid to halt military funding for construction of President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico as the pace of construction increasingly raises questions about whether time is running out for the administration’s critics.

The administration has begun work on 129 miles (206 kilometers) of Pentagon-funded projects in California, Arizona and New Mexico since the Supreme Court ruled in July that construction can proceed during a legal challenge.

The Pentagon has diverted $6.1 billion to pay for construction since Trump declared a national emergency on the border in February. Trump says he plans to have about 500 miles (800 kilometers) built by the end of 2020. As of Nov. 1, about 78 miles (125 kilometers) were completed to replace barriers.

Dror Ladin, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, urged a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to rule as quickly as possible because the administration was moving quickly in places including Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona.

“There (are) huge amounts of water being drawn because they’re putting the wall with a great deal of cement, and there’s bulldozers and really heart-wrenching pictures from the border that are being sent to me every day,” Ladin said.

Ladin said in an interview that sections of wall in dispute should be torn down if the ACLU prevails.

The judges — two appointed by President Bill Clinton and one by Trump — gave no clues to how they were leaning. They did not say when they will issue a written decision.

The ACLU, which is representing the Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, contends that Trump flagrantly ignored the wishes of Congress. Attorneys for the Justice Department said Trump properly exercised his authority to transfer money between departments.

Attorneys for the state of California and the U.S. House of Representatives appeared before the judges to argue in favor of the ACLU’s position.