Judges overseeing litigation stemming from the government’s plan for a wall along the Mexico border were told on Tuesday that the Trump administration was authorizing 20 more miles (32 kilometers) of border barriers in Arizona and California after costs for earlier stretches were lower than expected.
The U.S. said that earlier this month the Department of Homeland Security amended a February request for financial assistance from the Pentagon to add the projects as a result of the anticipated surplus. The money was initially transferred to the Defense Department’s drug interdiction activities, according to the filing.
“The amendment added mileage as well as new projects to the list of DHS-requested border-barrier-construction projects,” the government said in a court filing. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “will not know the precise amount available until later in the fiscal year,“ it said.
The government said contracts will be awarded no later than Sept. 30 and construction won’t start until after Oct. 1.
A divided U.S. Supreme Court in July allowed the administration to start using disputed Pentagon funds to construct more than 100 miles of fencing along the border, letting the president take his biggest step yet toward erecting his long-promised wall.
The justices lifted a lower court freeze that was designed to block $2.5 billion in spending while lawsuits by the Sierra Club and another advocacy group went forward. Those cases are proceeding toward possible trials.
Trump declared the emergency after Congress approved only $1.4 billion of the $5.7 billion he sought for the wall this fiscal year. The House and Senate both voted to cancel Trump’s plan but weren’t able to override his veto.
The $2.5 billion is the first chunk of almost $7 billion in Pentagon and Treasury Department funds that the emergency declaration was designed to tap.
The case is Center for Biological Diversity v. Trump, 19-cv-408, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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