There have actually been two wins in court for the border wall this week. On Wednesday the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay to a previous court ruling that prevented the Trump administration from getting access to $3.6 billion in funds for construction of the border wall.
In a 2-1 ruling, the panel noted that the U.S. Supreme Court had stayed an injunction in a similar border wall case from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The court also said there was a “substantial likelihood” that the parties challenging the funding transfer – the county of El Paso, Texas, and the Border Network for Human Rights – lacked standing to sue the Trump administration.
Today a district court judge lifted a restraining order he had put in place last year to prevent a private effort to build a section of the wall near the Rio Grande. The Associated Press points out that the judge did so against the government’s wishes in this case:
Fisher Industries, a North Dakota-based construction firm, wants to install 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) of steel posts about 35 feet (10 meters) from the U.S. bank of the Rio Grande, the river that forms the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. The company’s president, Tommy Fisher, wants to spend $40 million on the private border wall — originally promoted by a pro-Trump online fundraising group — to prove that his company can build barriers more effectively.
The U.S. government sued to stop Fisher on the grounds that building so close to the Rio Grande risked changing the flow of the river and potentially pushing floodwaters into Mexico, in violation of treaty obligations.
The Trump administration’s goal is to complete 450 miles of border wall, some of which would replace existing but inferior barriers. Tomorrow, acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf is scheduled to announce the completion of the first 100 miles at a press conference in Yuma, Arizona.
Trump administration officials plan to announce Friday that they have completed 100 miles of new barriers along the border with Mexico, but their benchmark underscores how far construction crews still have to go to fulfill the president’s pledge to finish 450 miles by the end of 2020…
Trump’s border wall project is a central theme of his campaign for a second term, and the ambitious construction targets have put considerable pressure on Homeland Security officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the contractors building the structure…
In recent weeks, Homeland Security officials have appeared to hedge against Trump’s construction targets. Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told reporters last month that the president’s goal posts likely are out of range.
“Our goal at the end of 2020 was 450 miles,” Morgan said. “It’s hard right now to be able to say whether we’re still going to be able to meet that goal, but I’m confident that we’re going to be close.”
No one who wants to see the wall built is going to care if the final tally is 375 miles instead of 450. Those who are paying close attention will recognize that Trump has had to fight Congress and the courts to get anything done on this front. The fact is that the wall is being built and however much of it gets done he can promise to finish the job if reelected.
The other factor in Trump’s favor is that border apprehensions continue to be down, though this likely has more to do with the remain in Mexico policy than the wall. The decline in apprehensions in December was small but the numbers are still down substantially from the peak in May:
CBP enforcement actions (apprehensions and inadmissibles) in December totaled 40,620. This is a decrease of 5% compared to November and 71.8% lower than the peak of 144,000 in May 2019. https://t.co/Eln0I3YsQX pic.twitter.com/aDDfEGZgDp
— CBP (@CBP) January 9, 2020